Andy's Resurrection Story
Each week in worship we take time to hear one story of good news from someone within our congregation or our city. During the season of Easter, we asked each storyteller to share how he or she had experienced, witnessed, or participated in resurrection in their own life or in others. Andy shared his story on Sunday, May 13, but there is more to his resurrection experience than what he had time to tell in that service. As you read his full story here, you are invited to celebrate and share the good news of resurrection in Andy’s life, and everywhere else you see it!
My name is Andy Fritsch. My wife Tara and our two boys, Harper and Ashwin have been in this 8th Street community since January of 2017. We are happy to be part of the Dedmon / Brand parish group.
The stories we share with one another here at 8th Street are foundational to who we are and what we care about most. Our stories connect us to each other, to our city and to our place in history and in this world. One of the reasons our stories are so meaningful is because when we tell them, we use our own authentic words. Each of us is different. We use different words, different language to express how we see the world. Words that make sense to us. They may not be the words others would chose for themselves, but they are the words that are closest to our hearts. So today, I will use the words that are closest to me to tell you my story.
In particular, I want to tell you about three words that are especially meaningful to me:
I have long been drawn to the idea of story. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted my life to be grounded in a larger story – a story full of meaning, and truth and purpose and fulfillment. My journey to find my place in such a story has been long and full of ebbs and flows.
The first time I felt truly small was at 55,000 feet. Normally, when people are in an airplane, they are looking down at the ground at all the landmarks and cities, but I was looking up. At that height, there is less atmosphere and you can actually begin to see the blackness of space. In it, I saw a sprawling deepness, an expanse that made me feel small and afraid. At the same time, in my smallness, I found myself amazed at a vast cosmos – a universe of boundless mystery. I began to wonder where I fit in it all.
I have always been religious. I was raised in a fundamentalist, legalistic world where community was strong, but rules were stronger. I couldn’t continue to live in that system. There is a much longer story about that, but it’s for another time. Nevertheless, the Christian framework into which I was raised did not satisfy, did not make sense to me and could not be sustained.
I’ve always felt there must be MORE. The doctrines I learned, the explanations I was given to explain reality, the answers people told me to explain who God is and what God is like seemed too… simple, too formulaic, too systematic, too black and white, too human and frankly, too easy to see through. I was looking for God and only finding broken people who were like me, trying to feel their way in the dark.
For twenty years, my story has been a cycle of ebbs and flows. For a few years, my faith would thrive and flow, and I would feel rich and connected. Yet, as time passed, that faith would ebb into years of doubt and frustration. Through the ups and downs, I always continued my search for the divine, but I’ve so struggled with how to go about that search, not knowing what to look for or how to look for it.
The wax and wane between faith and doubt has become the expected rhythm of my life. What has only been viewable in hindsight is that with each cycle, I’ve grown, I’ve matured in my own understanding of self, of who I am and what matters most to me. I’ve grown to find greater balance between my intellect and my emotion. On my good days, I worry less about things “making sense” - for what does it mean to make sense except that your ideas fit neatly into a model of reality that someone else dreamed up? I’ve grown in the awareness of others and my heart has begun to break for people who are hurting and I find myself strangely wanting to do something about that. So, in hindsight, I see this as progress.
About 10 years ago, I was deep in doubt and did not know how to search for God. I had tried everything I could think of, but in the end, I gave up trying, I gave up willing myself to believe when I found no faith living in me. I had searched every path and coming up short, I cried out and said to God,
“I can’t find you. If you exist and if you want me, you’ll have to come and get me because I can’t come to you.”
Do you know what happened in that moment? I felt a flood of awakening. I saw myself as if inside of an egg, a prison that I couldn’t escape. I realized with a foreign clarity that, what I was experiencing, was the plight of humanity – that we cannot come to God because we don’t know what God looks like. We don’t have divine words in our language with which to communicate. We only have the dull and empty words of human language. We are blind and we cannot see. We cannot go to God because we don’t know the way. So, God comes to us. In this split-second rush of information, one word lit up my mind:
The stories I had heard in my youth, that made no sense to me then, suddenly clicked into place. The helplessness I felt in my experience was the common cry of the human species across all space and time. And 2,000 years ago, in a perfect moment, God quietly blazed into our reality in the form of a weak, human child. I could elaborate much more on the meaning incarnation has for me, but I must continue. For as is my rhythm, this flow of faith slowly began to ebb back into doubt and questioning.
The idea of incarnation was extraordinarily beautiful to me. The story of God having such compassion on the world that God enters our reality as one of us to show us who he is – this was a story I wanted to ground myself in – to adopt as my own story. Yet, one seed was planted in the back of my brain and began to grow and fester. Jesus lived 2,000 years ago, and I had never seen this man. I had only heard of him in stories. And we all know, not every story is true.
This period of doubt began six years ago and has lasted up until very recently. I began to see myself in Thomas the apostle. Thomas was a follower of Jesus, and he saw him die. You’ll remember from the story that Thomas, for some reason, wasn’t present when the resurrected Jesus first appeared to his friends. Later, they told him about it, and he said that he would not believe that his friend Jesus could be alive again unless he could see the nail wounds and place his hand on Jesus’ wounded side.
Thomas has had bad rap in Christendom. His doubt has historically been seen as weakness. Yet, Thomas’ doubt, as expressed in the bible, was the truest reflection of my own experience. Thomas desperately wanted to believe that the story of his friend being raised from the dead was true, but because he loved Jesus so much, his friend, he would not yield his integrity to easy answers. Thomas’ own integrity required him to demand MORE. Thomas needed a body to touch.
I adopted Thomas’ strategy as my own. For in some strange irony, I deeply trusted that if the God I desired truly existed, then that Divine One would deliver the type of custom-made faith I craved. I also knew that in the past, I had been so desperate to be re-united with God, so urgent to be re-integrated into the community of believers that I had given in to easy answers and an easy faith that was not my own. In those times of giving in, I found that my easy faith was not built on the solid ground I needed. It evaporated over time and my unity with God and the community turned empty and the faith I had was based on foundations I couldn’t accept.
This season of doubt and separation was a long one. As I said, things have only changed in the past couple of months. Yet for these past six years, I remained committed to my own integrity in my search for God. I knew I needed to meet Jesus and that nothing short of putting my hands on his incarnate flesh would satisfy. Yet, I thought this was impossible. Those stories about Jesus of Nazareth – they concluded 2,000 years ago and all humanity has had since then were a few books and fading memories. I needed Jesus here and now and in my life, in my moment in history, right here in Oklahoma City. I didn’t see this happening and I almost gave up.
And then… I stumbled into Midtown and Chris and Michaele. These two and you the community of this place started to give a face to Jesus. I began to see life happening that I had only dreamed of, but never really experienced, at least in this measure. Yet, even you and Chris and Michaele were not enough. I saw something special in you, but you are still just human flesh like me and I needed MORE.
And in the bottom of my despair, a new word came to me:
Embodiment is not a native word in my vocabulary, but when my mind latched on to it, it immediately took me back to the word Incarnation and the bitter sweetness of my being separated from the man Jesus by 2,000 years. And yet, something in the word Embodiment teased at being something MORE.
I imagined a divine being standing at the brink of time, pausing and taking a moment before uttering the words that brought the cosmos into existence. I pictured this Divine One waiting in a holy moment - wholly different than myself, entirely compassionate and completely desirous of creating a shared existence with its creation-and then I understood what Embodiment meant.
The Bible describes the new heaven and the new earth as a place where God makes his home among us. This is the chief goal of God. When God paused in that moment before the breath of creation, God committed to a path. God committed to create a world in which we would live, but this world, this universe, this cosmos would not just be a place into which God would observe from the outside looking in. No, in the act of creation, God committed to forming the universe into his own body. God incarnated his divinity into every physical thing – every mountain, every grain of sand, every living creature, every cell in your body, every blade of grass, every planet, every star and every galaxy is the embodiment of God.
With this epiphany, my eyes were opened and I saw the body of God that I had so longed to see. I had been looking for the man Jesus from 2,000 years ago, but it was Christ of the cosmos who found me. I expected a man and I got so much more.
This brings me to my final word:
My story is a series of resurrections – awakenings to the deeper movements of the Divine One in this world. Jesus was the Incarnate One who came at just the right time in history. He put a human face on the divine presence which had already been infused into the matrix of reality, but that we humans simply couldn’t see. Jesus, the god-man points us to his truest self – the one identified as the Christ. It is the Christ whose vitality animates all living things. It is the Christ who created all matter, the forces of natures and who sustains everything in equilibrium. And it is the Cosmic Christ who found me as I felt around like a blind man in a dark cave for a story of MORE in which to find myself. He is the Resurrected One and He is about the business of resurrection.
I don’t know what lies next on my path. I expect there is more doubt to come, more questions - and I’m at peace with that - for that is the rhythm of my life, but it is not the only thing in me.
I leave you with the scripture that gave me hope in the darkness and continuously inspired me - teasing at something MORE just around the next bend in the trail. From Acts 17, the Apostle Paul speaking to the people of Athens:
“Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.
“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth.”
“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist."