I had been looking forward to Easter for weeks. I meditated on Jesus’s journey to the cross through the Lenten period, and especially enjoyed studying and writing about the events of Holy Week here in my blog. Certainly, there are somber events to reflect on….but most importantly, there is cause for celebration: Jesus’ was our once-for-all sacrifice, and His resurrection signifies His triumph over sin and death. I needed to hear that message this year more than any other, for while there was joy for what Jesus had done for us…this was not a happy Easter.
My Plans Fell To Pieces
You see, I had spent weeks anticipating the many other traditions of Easter: sharing a meal with my family, and since the weather was supposed to be nice this year, of having an outdoor Easter egg hunt for My Girls (ages 4 in just a few weeks, and nearly 2-1/2). They had picked out pretty new Easter dresses and were so excited! And then – like Humpty Dumpty – it all fell to pieces: my plans and my heart.
Some of you know, my daughter doesn’t share my faith in God. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say it’s been a spiritual struggle I’ve fought for more than 15 years. I feel guilty for what part I may have played as an imperfect parent. My heart aches to watch her battle so many demons over the years. And I hate that I can’t keep my folks from going through their own heartache. So I wasn’t exactly surprised when she text me Saturday evening to say she and the Girls wouldn’t be participating in our Easter plans. No church. No family dinner. No Easter eggs.
My First Reponse
My first response wasn’t Christ-like, I admit. More than anything, I was just plain angry. This was all last-minute….after plans had been made. Then came the guilt. Hadn’t I raised my kids to be more respectful than that? Hadn’t I taught them “the golden rule?” I know I taught my kids that sometimes you do things that aren’t important to you just because they’re important to the people you love. It’s called being mature and tolerant and kind. Did I totally fail at instilling that in my kids??
These are questions this middle-aged Mama of two adults has been asking herself for decades. And while I admittedly bear some of the blame, sometimes it’s simply a matter of them making their own choices for reasons that have nothing to do with me. I’m not shirking my responsibility here, but I also know I wasn’t the only influence on their lives. This is not just about my failings as the Mama.
By God’s grace, MHH and I had tickets for a local theater show Saturday night, so I prayed on the drive into town that Jesus would hold off all my hurt for the rest of the night. Read: I wasn’t giving it up to Him; I was just putting it on a spiritual backburner while I was mad. I can be a little controlling like that. *rolls eyes at self*
And I did pretty good. We enjoyed supper at a favorite pizza place, and laughed through the show. And when we got home, I knit until I was sure I’d fall asleep once I went to bed….cuz I’m a horrible fall-asleeper, and I did not want to by lying in bed thinking about “it” for hours. (Note: I still hadn’t let go of the hurt and anger yet.)
My Shell Started To Crack
When I woke Sunday morning, it was with an empty, aching heart. I wouldn’t get to see My Girls wearing their new Easter dresses. I wouldn’t get to watch them hunt Easter surprises. I wouldn’t get to love all over them. Who knows what twists await our family in this next part of our journey; I didn’t even want to think about it. Less than 12 hours down this new path and I was already emotionally exhausted…again. I’ll be honest; I’m not one to ask, “Why?” But that’s never stopped me from wondering “How?” (am I supposed to respond) or “What?” (am I supposed to say….if anything?) Those questions alone can paralyze us, can’t they?
So I got ready for church…..with only one short, messy cry all over MHH’s chest. (He is my rock. Thank You, Jesus.) I sang the worship songs….but without much emotion. (I know me; if I get emotional at church, it’s all over; just bring out the hankies!) Then the pastor gave his message. Maybe it’s because he and his family have recently come out on the other side of a frightening medical battle for their little 6-year old son, so he was speaking from his own heartache. Maybe it was just a great sermon. Maybe it was just God speaking to me. All I know is that the shell I’d created around my aching heart cracked a little bit more with each point he made….until my heart was laid bare before God.
It wasn’t your typical “Jesus died and rose again” Easter message, either. Oh no….unbeknownst to him, God had used Pastor Scott as the instrument through which He would break through my shell of fear and doubt. Pastor Scott shared the five things Jesus brought when He appeared to the disciples after His resurrection. (Read John 20:19-23. Watch the message video here.) He pointed out, “It was in the midst of fear and doubt that Jesus showed up”……for His disciples that first Easter Sunday, and for me this year.It was in the midst of fear and doubt that Jesus showed up. - Pastor Scott Wilson Click To Tweet
God Broke Through My Shell
I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold back the tears when Pastor Scott reminded us that peace isn’t the absence of suffering or trouble; peace is a filling of the Holy Spirit in spite of it. That’s when God whispered, “It wasn’t just on that day, Kimberly. He’s here to bring all these things to you, today. I know you have your own fears and doubts this morning. It may not be a happy Easter, but there is still joy because of Jesus.”
Then it was time to sing the final worship song. I can’t even tell you what song it was. I maybe made it through the first verse before I broke down. Let me just say: I am not proud, people. If God is speaking, I am ambivalent to anything else; the tears are just gonna flow. (And can I just say again….I MISS the days of altar calls. There’s just something about coming forward with a public demonstration of need or repentance. If I could have gone down front and cried “at the foot of the cross,” I would have. Seems especially appropriate on Easter Sunday, doesn’t it?) I was completely “cracked,” and couldn’t hold onto my pretense of control any longer; I finally gave all to Jesus. He had the power to overcome the cross, so I know I can trust He can overcome whatever Satan throws in my path now. And He didn’t leave me here alone to deal with it: I have the power of the Holy Spirit in me. It’s not really my fight anyhow, is it? *sigh of relief*
What Jesus Brought Us
When we got out to the truck, I told MHH how the message had spoken to my heart. In the midst of yet another enemy attack, I was reminded I don’t have to fear what may come. I just need to keep claiming what Jesus brought us when He rose from the grave that first Easter Sunday:
- Jesus’ Presence is as real today as it was in that locked room. “I am with you always…” (Matthew 28:20 NIV c1978).
- Jesus brought us Peace in spite of any circumstance. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.” (John 14:27 NIV c1978)
- Jesus brought proof that He had conquered death. “He showed them His hands and side…” (John 20:20 NIV c1978).
- Jesus was sent for a purpose: to die for our sins. My purpose is to “go” (Matthew 28:19 NIV c1978), that God may be glorified through my every word and deed, and in every circumstance, happy or not.
- Jesus gave me the same God-breathed Power He gave His disciples: the Holy Spirit. “And with that, He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'” (John 20:22 NIV c1978). My God is more powerful than any enemy attack; I just need to surrender the fight to Him.
While it wasn’t the Easter I had hoped for, because I focused on Jesus, I found joy in spite of my sorrow. I still hurt. I still cried late into the night after looking at all my friends’ pictures on Facebook of their kids dressed in their Easter finest at church, and enjoying Easter egg hunts with their family. All I can do is have faith that God will use this hurt to His glory. I don’t have to understand it, and I certainly can’t control it. But I can pray through it and ask Him to help me speak and act with love and grace and Truth. It’s a constant battle, but because of Jesus’ work on the cross, I know the battle is His….and it’s already won. Thank You, Jesus.