Laura Alary

Laura Alary

Writing stories that make us bigger on the inside

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Who Will Stay With Us?

April 27, 2021

This is a memory from years ago, but it is still fresh.

I was getting ready to go out. It was only for the day, but I required a lot of gear. By the front door, my youngest daughter pranced around a pile of bags, investigating and wondering aloud. A frown creased her forehead as the questions poured out: 

“Where are you going? How long will you be gone? Who will stay with us?”

There was something oddly familiar about her words. Then I remembered. My mind flitted to that moment in the gospel of John when Jesus, reclining in the lamplight around a table with his closest friends, breaks the news to them that he will soon be leaving. Their questions are those of children afraid to be left alone:

“Where are you going? When are you coming back? Who will stay with us?”

When I set out to write Breathe I spent considerable time sitting with the post-resurrection appearances in the gospels, trying to enter imaginatively into the experience of the disciples. To my surprise, what kept sweeping over me was this sense of anxiety–fear of an unknown future, uncertainty about their ability to face it alone, and disappointment (maybe even resentment) that Jesus had come back only to go away…again.

That bundle of emotions was not what I normally associated with Easter, but it felt familiar and true. So I decided to start there and see where it took me. As I traced this thread of anxiety through the resurrection appearances, I became aware of something else. There are two distinct versions of the giving of the Spirit: one in Acts, one in the gospel of John. They differ greatly in tone and detail, but both begin with fear.

I wanted to honour that essential part of the story. If you read Breathe you will see how I have gone about it, especially in the opening section, where the young narrator muses about things that hurt. But I think we can acknowledge these real feelings in the way we celebrate Pentecost too. There is room for more than cake and balloons (though those are good things too).

I have more to say about this in this blog post I wrote for Paraclete Press. You can read it here:

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