life after life

It’s a kind of spooky but exhilarating experience to cycle through a mile long, dimly lit tunnel, with occasional cello music coming through speakers in the walls. You can hear the slap, slap, slap of joggers’ footsteps before you can see them and when you pass people, it feels a little bit too close to be with a stranger in the dark.

But don’t let that put you off the ‘Two Tunnels Greenway’ cycle path in Bath, which is a fantastic off road route and goes through some lovely countryside, too. Maybe it’s because of the book I’ve been reading but the world of the tunnel felt so different from the outside that it almost was a bit like being born again to come out the other side.

I’ve just read Kate Atkinson’s novel ‘Life After Life’ which is about a person who is able to live parts of her life over again in order to change what happens; even world events. Repeatedly in the book the main character dies and then is born again to live a slightly different version of her life, with small changes learned from her previous lives.

What struck me about the frequent deaths of the main character was that often life feels a bit like a death and a rebirth. We’ve just moved away from a place we were growing quite fond of and people we loved. I know it’s not the same as an actual bereavement, but it still feels a little bit like a death.

In the 1970’s someone carved a cross out of a bit of wood they found in the garden to help a community celebrate Easter, never thinking that it would become an inspiration for lots of people and end up being in several different communities and places (even on the Shetland Isles). Two days before we moved, a month ago now, it came to us.

I first came across this cross in the early 1990s and it was there at our wedding in 1999. To be honest, I didn’t expect to ever see it again. It’s not something we’re planning to keep and to be honest, it is meant to be in the heart of a community, but for the time being we are looking after it and luckily we are living in a house with high enough ceilings to accommodate it. It has become our new ‘prayer stair’.

Meeting new people, finding our way around, getting used to a new house feels like a chance at a new life, but we’re still in the baby stage. I read recently that you can’t have a revival or a resurrection unless something actually dies. That isn’t easy and sometimes we forget that. In the book of John, Jesus says

‘Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life, just as it is, destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.’

Bring on the tunnels! But bring on the light at the other end, too.