Every Easter my family made our way up to my grandparents’ condo for Sunday lunch. In the springtime the bushes and flowers budded and their neighborhood felt like the most beautiful place in the world to me. Easter felt magical. Maybe even more magical than Christmas. It seemed like it always surreptitiously collided with the first hint of spring. I would wear a dress with little daisies on it and Mary Janes. I would sit in the back seat of the car with my feet hanging off the edge of the seat, eager for ham and potatoes and playtime with my cousins and my grandma’s warm smile and my grandpa’s bear hugs, feeling like everything was right with the world as long as it was Easter.
As I grew up this belief lodged itself deep in my soul: that everything was right with the world as long as it was Easter.
I realized soon that, weather-wise, Easter was actually often gray and rainy. Then three of my grandparents got sick and passed away a few years apart and Easter trickled from a cheery day together to the first holiday without a grandparent, to maybe-one-of-the-last-Easters-all-together at the condo, to a quiet, slow day at my grandma’s nursing home. But fiercely and surely I sang, with conviction and a gratitude I could hardly comprehend, Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes.
Still, Easter began looking like a snarky milestone, more than the other holidays for some reason — vile proof that in a few years everything can change.
He is Risen! Everywhere from everyone. The most simple, basic, beautiful thing now jabbed more than a little.
It wasn’t just me, of course. Easter was a few weeks before a friend’s dad passed away, the first holiday apart. Easter is that awkward day the family spends together after a parent or sibling casts off the faith their family shares. Easter, full of new life and hope and sweet babies in pastel colors, feels empty and dark for the ones who can’t seem to create new life themselves.
Some of us, I think, feel empty on Easter — as empty as the tomb of the Gospels but without any resurrection in us.
Our churches lift their hands, their hearts, their voices, and we move our mouths but suddenly, on Easter of all days, it feels harder than ever.
Can I admit that sometimes wallowing in Good Friday sounds sort of ok, when life feels confusing and dark? I yearn for Easter, oh, don’t misunderstand me, I’m unfathomably grateful for Easter, but the joy of the resurrection story on paper doesn’t always fill up my heart when I look around at the heartache still around me.
Easter can leave us feeling like Mary that Sunday morning, going to the tomb with no sense of expectation but only a broken heart, her hands cut and bloodied with the shards of shattered hope.
How must have she felt in that moment? We laud her for her devotion for showing up, for being the first one to see the resurrected Jesus, but she must’ve felt betrayed, too. The disciples and Mary knew Jesus had come to save but in that moment he hadn’t yet. In their minds he became everything they feared he might be but didn’t dare admit: a phony. A fraud. A big talker. A waster of their lives. They must have been enraged. They must have felt like a jaded wife who finds her husband in bed with another woman.
They must have been angry that Jesus stopped proving himself, even for a moment, even if that sentiment was funneled through the kaleidoscope of their doubt and unmet expectations.
But still, let’s not forget, Mary showed up.
What an act of faith! What an act of raw, humble, fierce faith, that she would go straight up to her Rabbi, even in his tomb, that she wouldn’t hide in her home, buried in her disappointment, but that she would go to him even in her doubt.
I want to cry out for each of us who, like Mary that morning, show up to church on Easter Sunday feeling like, though we know God has promised to save, though we read in Scripture that he already has, though we know he’s claimed our souls, he hasn’t rescued us from our circumstances yet.
Though he redeemed us, sanctified us, we still have broken hearts. We still feel smothered by our grief. We’re still exhausted by our diseases. He hasn’t answered all our desperate prayers.
But I cry out for each of us who accept the first coming of Easter, though the waiting for the second coming feels like it will absolutely splice us in half.
I think, I hope, I plead, I believe, that there is bravery and nobility in showing up, like the disciples, even when you have doubts bigger than you’d care to admit that someone may not be waiting for you, even when you’re not sure God is going to fix your broken pieces yet, even when you want to rest in the assurance of his resurrection but feel so weary that he hasn’t fully healed you yet.
If Easter isn’t for the doubters, for the ones who cry out to God and ask “why?”, for those of us who crave the second coming like it’s water in a drought, then I’m not sure who it’s even for.
Easter is for the ones who put all their hope in something even when they’re disappointed.
Easter is for the ones who are angry, so angry, but show up to the tomb anyway.
Easter is for the ones who cast their gaze away and ask, Really? Did he really? but keep listening.
Easter is for me, Easter is for you, Easter is for all of us doubters.