There is a Maya Angelou poem called “Still I Rise”. It’s my favorite Easter poem, full of sassy optimism. It rings of a woman who has stared her demons in the face, and said “enough. I choose freedom.” It is dripping with life experience. It’s as if she is saying to her detractors, “I may be disappointing your low expectations, and your self limiting beliefs, but get over it. I’m here and I’m done with fear.”
This poem first struck a chord with me in Easter of 2001. It felt like I had been forced out of my hometown (Sydney) because the church didn’t know what to do with me. It felt like an ending. I was full of bitterness and defeat. Easter 2001 was my first Easter at St Matthew in the City in Auckland. It was the first Easter I stared my own bitterness in the face, like a heavy stone. I made the choice to roll the stone away from my ego’s tomb and create my own future. This was no ending. This was an incredible beginning that eight years later is still beginning. Applying the Easter story as a lesson in personal transformation was the icing on the cake of my own liberation. Still I Rise was my mantra.
Last Sunday, as well as reporting back on my trip to the UK, I began an Easter reflection. I used the image of rising above perceived endings, standing on the mound of your life experiences and using them as a spring board for new possibilities. I have experienced this liberation. You can as well. May you know freedom this Easter; freedom from regret and bitterness. May you rise above endings to gain the vision necessary to greet a new moment. Every perceived letdown is an opportunity in disguise. Every imagined disappointment is a new possibility awaiting your attention. Everything you think you have lost eventually turns up in a different guise. Every ending morphs into a wondrous new beginning.
Make a decision this Easter. Enough with the self inflicted drama and suffering. Enough with trying to live down to other people’s expectations. This Easter, you rise. This Easter, you rise. This Easter, you rise.
Here is the whole Angelou poem for inspiration- even better, watch Maya read it.
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.