“… Until we let the Christ who consorted with hookers and crooks to be our truth, the false, fraudulent self motivated by cowardice and fear will continue to distance us from abiding restful union.” – from Brennan Manning’s writing, The Furious Longing of God. (Read it and weep…. Seriously! Reading or listening to this book will likely bring tears to your eyes as your heart grasps grace).
Have you ever tried to earn God’s favor? I know i have! So I’m lovingly saying this to both of us: STOP IT!!! (And, yes. That was intentionally bold, in italics, and all caps!). Let’s just rest. It’s time you and I stop working so hard for the unfailing love we’ve always had from our Maker God. Grace works so we don’t have to.
There’s been debate in “Christiandom” for years about whether or not good Christian parents should tell their children stories of Easter Bunnies and send them off on adventures to find hidden eggs.
Some would argue that the remembrances and celebrations of the Easter Holiday weekend should all focus on our Risen Savior and the empty tomb He left behind. “Behead the bunnies and burn the baskets!” might be their mantra.
But I would argue that a single day – or even an entire Lenten season – cannot adequately celebrate our Risen Redeemer – whether filled with chocolate bunnies or fervent fasting. You see, the whole point of that ancient crucifixion and resurrection of our Serving Savior was not for focus to be fixed on an empty tomb or for feasting on baskets full of candy.
The point of the God becoming man, dying, and rising was not to create an empty tomb for generations of faithful pilgrims to gaze into – as awe-inspiring as that may be. The beauty of what these over-crowded Easter Sunday services are trying to Celebrate is so much more than one day and a family dinner. Rather, the true Resurrection Celebration is the sudden and sustained appearance of the light of hope and life in the eyes of a person who had previously been daily trudging through a living death of hopelessness.
So eat that Easter Candy if you want to. Go to church and slice the ham. But you are only witnessing a true Resurrection Celebration when you can daily look into eyes and see a changed life.
For me, this Easter weekend was one of my best yet. I shared the weekend with a dear friend who has navigated through very similar life struggles as me. As we hiked some beautiful West Virginia trails and spoke of strong and confident personal and professional steps we would have never taken in prior years, we realized the very lives we are leading are a beautiful resurrection story.
And the weekend was summed up with a beautiful reminder of this at the close of the service of a little church we visited in West Virginia today. Unlike the larger highly-produced church services many of us experience these days, this one was small and intimate – opening with the pastor querying the entire congregation for any prayer requests and closing by asking if there was anything else on their hearts. It wasn’t focused on a celebrity-style preacher but on the simplicity of God’s love poured out on all the people as they ministered to one another. And it was that sweet atmosphere that provided the freedom for a woman near the back of the church to stand at the close of service and say, “I know He’s alive because He Lives in me!“.
And that – the unending and uninhibited passionate spark of a changed life – is way better than an Easter basket or a sunrise service.
So, not just happy Easter to you. Our Father designed us for more than just an occasional celebratory day.
When I would wake up with nightmares as a little girl, Mom would comfort me by singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”. And that fact she sang over me all those years ago still allows me to sleep peacefully even during some of the most seemingly uncertain chapters of life.
God collects the tears of the hurting (see Psalm 56:8) and weeps with those who weep (see John 11:33-35). And nothing is quite as beautiful as when His people do the same….. very rare and completely counter-cultural in a society that avoids pain and idolizes comfort…. but beautiful. May we have our #FathersHeart toward the hurting. Sometimes it is OK to weep with them and be present in their pain rather than sing the same old #PressOnAndBeStrong song.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”