Growing up in India as the child of Christian missionaries enlarged my views on hospitality, religion, and food. But when I visited the temple of Kali, the Hindu goddess of death and destruction, her statue scared me. She wears a necklace of human skulls while holding a trident in one hand and a decapitated head in another. She sticks out her long tongue to tease viewers. I couldn’t understand why people would praise a goddess of death and destruction. Who worships death? Who welcomes destruction?
When I returned to India as an adult, I revisited Kali’s temple. I was a second-year seminarian at the time, desperate to reconstruct a genuine faith I could claim as my own. I tried to keep every piece of my childhood faith while searching for new pieces to build upon. The purpose of our seminary trip to India was to examine the connecting points between Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity. Up to that point, the trip felt academic. But in Kali’s temple, as I watched people stand in line with their sacrifices, some of the ideas about faith and theology that I was frantically trying to fit together fell apart.
I thought that this would be a sad, terrible thing. What I hadn’t realized was that the death of unhelpful thinking makes room for something new and good. There in Kali’s temple, I rediscovered our hope as followers of Jesus. Death does not have the final word. When some things die, new life—and new faith—emerges to claim us. I left the temple thankful for that truth and hopeful for the new life to come. In the midst of what seems a wasteland of ash and stumps, destruction does not have the last word. The holy seed is its stump (v. 13b).
What needs to die in your life to give birth to something new?
God of new life, give us the courage to let go of hurtful thinking so that we may embrace the big, deep love you have for your world. Amen.