I love holidays. Love them. Actually, celebrations in general. Come to think of it, I put effort into the high school golf outing meetings that take place at our house once a month. It makes My Fave a little crazy because I tend to go a bit over the top. It’s not from a place of needing to impress people; I simply love being in community. Whether it’s family or friends or a meeting with volunteers, I want people to walk into our house and feel welcomed and know we believe they’re worthy of our putting in some thoughtful effort to make them feel at home. I suppose a small part is due to watching my parents and extended family put so much into card club, holidays, birthdays and more. The bigger piece of it is much more an effort to “pay it forward”.
Easter. Growing up it meant fancy dresses,what you were giving up for Lent (except for the Sunday reprieve which I still don’t understand), 5-day weekends, overflowing baskets of candy, dying eggs, tiny jelly beans my parents put on the floor of our bedrooms as Easter Bunny poop (really?), elaborate Easter Egg hunts and the Stations of the Cross. That last one is about the only “religious” ritual that tied Jesus to Easter in my Catholic upbringing.
I left the Catholic Church the moment I walked out of high school my senior year. Jesus and I were not on speaking terms and hadn’t been for quite some time. When, during one of the “rock bottom” periods that came in the span of about 15 or so years, my, now long-distance, raised with zero religion, BFF “K” suggested I check out this small church she found that wasn’t preachy or serving up a bunch of guilt/shame/need/should stuff. Sitting in that small church, which would become the first “mega church” of sorts in our area, I heard about a God with no intention of pummeling me with the guilt/shame/need/should stuff; this Grace & Mercy God wasn’t one I knew existed. I was certain God went radio silent when I was 13 and had never given me a second thought since because, well for a lot of reasons. He didn’t. Never had. Never will.
I love Easter. Not for the candy (although I do love a stale Peep, Classic Brach’s Jelly Beans and some Robin Eggs; My Fave ruined that this year – thought Keto would be a “great bonding experience” for us). Not for the ham and au gratin potatoes my Mom makes each year (no potatoes this year – thanks Babe). Not for the matching outfits (we have them; my Miller Men don’t get Mama’s need for the perfect picture). Not for the the time with family (I do love being with them and wish we could do it more). Not for the dying of eggs and elaborate egg hunts (teenage boys would rather eat the eggs than decorate them but managed to get J to agree to let us hide one egg for him).
“Jesus Christ did not come into this world to make bad people good; He came into this world to make dead people live.” (Lee Strobel)
I love Easter for what happens in the moments when it seems like something else is happening. For the look on C’s face when, like every year before, the blinds in our chapel are raised on Easter Sunday and light floods the room, while “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” is our joyous offering . For the “I told you back in the days of Isaiah that this was coming.” For the expression of “This is how much I love you; this is Me coming after you and making a way for you to be with Me.” that it is, rather than “Look what you made Me do; I had to make a man suffer a horrid death meant for you.” it’s never been meant to be.
“Our old history ends with the cross; our new history begins with the resurrection.” (Watchman Nee)
For the assurance that guilt/shame/fear are part of the old us and were nailed to a cross and that a defeated grave made a way for the new us. For the many times Jesus had the opportunity (and power) to not face what He knew was coming but chose us over Himself. For one more example, despite what many believe, that God really does honor and adore women and wants us to be a major part of the story.
“But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.” (Matthew 28:5-6)
Above all else, I love Easter for the silence. When I left “the church” it was in large part because I felt God had gone completely silent. He abandoned me. At a time I needed him most, He left and wasn’t coming back. I spent much of my life hating silence; it made the noise in my broken mind much too loud. Easter welcomes silence and assures it in no ways means abandonment. It’s one more time in history when God seems to be out of the picture (on a cross, in a borrowed grave – out of the picture) but shows up, does it in a way that simply can’t be explained and makes clear He had a plan the whole time.
“The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter is a reminder that the silence of God doesn’t equal the absence of God.” (Sheryl Griffin)
Easter is love defined. It’s why we can choose to not be offended by humans being human. Why we can forgive just as we have been forgiven. Why we can live with (and love) people who do not look/speak/live/vote/love/dress/believe like we do. (Actually, we’re commanded to do life with those exact people.) Why we can share our stories and connect with people and do so without fear; human judgement is a bit easier to handle when you know judgement isn’t waiting for you at the end of your “dash”. Why we can look back on those stories and see all the ways that God was doing amazing stuff and making incredible messages out of the messes we create; my “raised with no religion” husband was finding his own way to Jesus in that same small church at the same time I was finding my way back – we wouldn’t meet for another year and no, we didn’t meet in that small church. Why we can live boldly with whatever purpose He made each of us for and know that “Welcome good and faithful servant; come and take your seat at My table.” is all that matters in the end.
2,000 years ago, a God I’d turned my back on had already made a path for my return and put the finishing touches on the party that will take place when His children are called home. He’s carefully orchestrated my steps and made the most incredible messages out of every single mess I have ever made. He’s made a way for me, all of us (even the bad ones of us), to quit being buried beneath the weight of fear/shame/guilt/pain/sickness/sorrow.
The very least this prodigal daughter can do is put some fraction of time and effort into making people who enter our home, be it for a simple meeting or a big celebration, feel welcome and worthy and know we’re so happy to have them. “Come in; My house is your house.” is waiting for us; I pray we’re offering a semblance of that kind of welcome to those who enter our home. I also pray that there will be Peeps, Jelly Beans, Robin Eggs, and au gratin potatoes and that Keto is a forbidden word, when my Daddy welcomes me home. Happy Easter, y’all.♥