So, today was Easter. I don’t normally get too excited in anticipation of Easter Sunday. It has a lot of Biblical significance, but to me it’s usually a day to spend with family eating a nice dinner and some kind of dessert involving fruit.
We typically spend Easter with my mom’s side of the family which is really nice since we don’t see them often enough. Most Easter Sunday’s we don’t even go to church…we’ve usually spent the night at my parents house the night before and we wake up late to a delicious breakfast spread that my mom prepares. Then we all look for the Easter gift bags full of candy that mom still puts together for us even though we are 27, 25, 18 and 16. We don’t complain…they are full of chocolate! (and jelly beans even though none of us really like them) I seem to remember putting off showering and getting dressed until right before the Alverson’s and Schwartz’s come over. Uncle Jim’s 3 hour round trip drive time usually exceeds the amount of time he stays. I always find that funny. He loves to indulge in mom or aunt Becky’s home cooked meals (and then talk about how he “never eats like this” and this year we got a whole run down of his nightly juicing routine which was actually fascinating…Jack Lalane would be proud) and often finds time to wander outside to soak in the beauty of my parent’s 10 acre spread. Usually 2 out of 3 Schwartz cousins accompany him. This year it was Meggie and Jimmy (or little Jimmy as I still tend to call him!). Our Easter feast is usually pretty consistent which I– being a total traditionalist– really appreciate. There is usually pork tenderloin, some type of cheesy or scalloped potatoes, asparagus and if it’s at mom’s house there is always a relish tray with radishes that no one eats and ham, cheese and Burkhardt’s sourdough bread to make sandwiches. We always eat too much and then seem to find a few spare centimeters of stomach space in which to cram the above-mentioned fruity dessert. This year it was strawberry shortcake and it was delicious.
I guess I’m more fond of Easter than I realized. Sitting here typing out the Easter traditions is making me realize the things I really like about it. I think I’m just so obsessed with Thanksgiving and Christmas that Easter takes a back seat most of the time.
For a period of time I was raised in a very legalistic Christian home. We didn’t celebrate most holidays except Thanksgiving and Birthdays for about 8 years. I was a pretty zealous Christian kid and never resented any of that. In fact, we had enough legalistic Christian literature around the house that at 8 years old I read a book called Turmoil in the Toy Box and proceeded to throw out all of my “ungodly toys.” This was all on my own. I truly believed that all of my unicorn My Little Pony’s were mystical and cultish. I got rid of some other stuff too, but it’s been a long time and I don’t remember my other evil toys. You might think that this would have left me scarred, but my parents’ journey into the freedom of Christ guided me into a more balanced place and I like to think I’m pretty well adjusted now. Anyway, back to the Easter thing…
Many of the holidays that we celebrate now like Christmas and Easter stem back to times of huge pagan celebrations. Many of the Christian themes of these holidays were attempts by priests and other religious figures to draw people away from the pagan celebrations and bring Christianity to the masses. Learning the pagan roots of these holidays kept us away from them for quite a few years and in my young mind it all made sense. I loved God and didn’t want anything to do with anything that wouldn’t please Him. Although naive and somewhat extreme in my beliefs, I often think back to that time in my life and think I was farther along spiritually than I am now. I was unafraid to share my faith or worship God openly, my mind was not burdened with worry and the cares of this world, I sought to honor my parents and please God. It wasn’t a bad place to be.
Fast forward about a decade and as a family we realized more and more our freedom in Christ and the opportunity that these holidays provided to remember significant things that God has done throughout time. We started with a small tree and stockings and worked our way back to a pretty normal Christmas. We don’t go overboard, but we really enjoy the tree, the music and exchanging gifts with one another. I still have moments when I question the whole practice, but for the most part I’m pretty gung-ho about the holidays, especially during November and December. I lose steam around Easter and usually only think about the Hallmark aspects like bunnies, baby chicks and Easter eggs. This year was different…
We are involved in starting a new church in our area. It’s called Paradox and we believe it’s exactly where God wants us right now. It’s definitely “church in the raw” but that’s how we like it. This Easter we got up and headed to church for the first time in several years. The service was focused mainly on worship, communion and sharing. We have an awesome worship leader who really guided us into a place of deep worship. We heard the story of one of our new attendees and how God is working in her life, and we watched a couple very poignant video clips. One of the videos really cracked open my heart and affected me. I’d seen it once or twice before and I remember being very moved, but this morning it was different. It’s a video narrated by an old black preacher with an amazing voice…deep, and almost “gurgly” like Louis Armstrong. He is emphatically describing Christ using all kinds of beautiful vocabulary and portraits of Christ are being flashed across the screen. He goes on describing his king for several minutes, pausing every so often to ask, “Do you know Him?” He makes such good use of so many phrases and adjectives, all describing our indescribable Savior. I love writing and vocabulary and clever wording and this morning I realized that God created language and even the words cry out to praise Him! As many words as this amazing man could use to describe his King none were sufficient, yet all of them gave a small glimpse of how wondrous He truly is. He reminded me that Jesus is the “Prince of Peace, He’s indescribable, incomprehensible, Pilate could find no fault in Him, Herod couldn’t kill Him, death couldn’t conquer Him, He’s the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Do you know Him?” These words all penetrated my heart and for the first time in longer than I care to admit, the focus of my mind was completely on Him. Not myself, my life, my circumstances, my future, my relationships, my finances, my figure, my day, my evening, my problems, my faults or my anything. The focus was on my Creator and my Savior and I felt life rush back into me in a way that I haven’t felt in a long time. During worship I’m often distracted by insignificant things, or I’m so self absorbed that I can’t truly worship. But this morning, God broke through all of that with a few hymns and a video clip. My heart is beating fleshy red again and my spirit feels renewed. I knew I had been in a desert experience for a while, but I had no idea how parched I really was.
This was an Easter to remember.