Easter morning, 8:00am: I was still lying down, savoring a bed to myself, trying to catch up on missed sleep from previous nights. One of the first things that occurred to me as I rolled out of bed was that I forgot about our church's early pre-service Easter breakfast. Um, yeah we weren't going to make it to that. I came downstairs to kids in various stages of morning routine, and a husband who had been worn down already by an hour and a half of general morning mayhem. The baby was dressed, and I was eager to dress the other two in the adorable outfits I had picked out for them weeks before. I was taking too long getting ready- the poison ivy on my arms was kind of a downer for Easter outfitting- should I wear make-up or not? Forget it let's go. The whole car ride to church I felt like I had thrown away the opportunity to really prepare myself or my kids for the meaning of Easter, because I knew that would have meant being intentional about it over a week ago. Plus I felt distant from God myself- and I knew closeness was not something I could manufacture the day of. Drat.
By the time I sat down in the service, I was in one of my weird funks. I was listening to songs asking, "death, where is your sting?" and "Hell, where is your victory?" and instead of feeling this amazing sense of God's power, I was feeling this overwhelming sense that death is very much alive in all the forms of brokenness around us- in child trafficking and hatred and drug addiction and arguments and pride. I guess I didn't really doubt God's power, but in the moment those words felt somehow premature- at the very least I felt very acutely the wide gap between the reality of this world and the Hope of the world that could be. I hadn't been truly drawing close to God lately, so I felt like a hypocrite anyway and everything about Easter seemed to mirror how I felt- plastic and hollow like the eggs we would later send the kids to find. I knew that there was power in the message of Christ that churches everywhere would share that day, but it seemed I had heard the story so many times that I was too numb to feel the weight of its truth. And the more I was reminded of what emotions Easter was SUPPOSED to evoke in me, the less able I was to actually access those feelings. I can't describe it exactly, but something had snapped; everything felt wrong and I just wanted Easter to be over. (And that was long before my kids were acting ungrateful and fighting over the contents of their Easter eggs.)
Ah- I don't mean to be depressing. The day got better. I did enjoy a quiet afternoon with family and, after putting him through one of my particularly perplexing venting sessions, I assured my husband that I wasn't giving up on faith or God. Or even Easter eggs.
But for me I think there were a lot of takeaways from this past Easter. Maybe you can relate.
- The major holidays we celebrate in the church like Christmas and Easter are certainly ideal times for remembering the story of Christ, but they inherently bring distractions and extra expectations that actually make it harder to focus on Christ. Whether it is decorating a tree or an egg, getting presents or chocolate, wearing pastels or red and green, there are a million ways I can "celebrate" each respective holiday without thinking about God at all. I don't really know how to combat this exactly- especially with kids- but I think it requires being freshly intentional each time.
- I'm not responsible for making my family experience God because that can't be forced or manufactured. But I am responsible for seeking God for myself...not just to model it for the kids but because I know the peace I feel in His presence and that overflows to my family in the atmosphere it creates. And that has to be a daily thing.
- Just because I "missed" Easter doesn't mean I can't find Easter after it is over. Easter is not the only magical time to focus on the cross and resurrection, just like Christmas isn't the only time to marvel at Christ's birth. Perhaps, for a person like me, it is actually easier to find myself pondering the cross outside of a holiday.
- There IS brokenness all around and feeling overwhelmed by the weight of that does not diminish the power of the cross. Acknowledging the sadness and hurt and destruction that exists as the result of sin in the world is not only OK, I think it is a prerequisite to feeling the fullness of what the Hope of Easter really is offering. Also, I believe its OK to question God and be honest about our feelings of doubt or disappointment. The Psalms are full of such raw, honest emotions. And I really believe that wrestling through our concerns and doubts will make us grow- while putting them aside and pretending they aren't there just makes us feel fake.
- While it is completely fine to dress up in our nice clothes and put on our special services and wish everyone Happy Easters with a smile (all things I've done), I think we should realize that all our external preparation for Easter does not change how people are feeling inside. I think I'm just saying that in a sea full of smiling, well dressed people we can feel like there must be something really wrong with us if we don't feel the way everyone else looks. But, like us, not everyone else feels the way they look. And perhaps it is another potential pitfall of Easter or even going to church in general- we all talk about universal brokenness but we don't really want anyone to know that WE are broken. (Well, at least now you know that if you have ever felt distant from God in a church service you are not alone.) I'm not suggesting we stop wearing nice clothes or start Easter greetings by growling at people- just that we don't start subtly believing that we are alone when we struggle...or that someone else is.
A good friend shared this link with me this week after I shared my "less-than-appropriate" Easter feelings. I felt like it completely summed up the feelings that I was having and the beauty and victory that is being offered out of the mess that we are and the broken world we live in. If you don't remember a single thing I've written I hope this message sticks out to you.
Labels: Family, Questioning