Sunday was Easter.
I have lovely memories of Easter as a child. They all include family and candy and going to services that had loads of flowers and a big cross.
When Cortney and I got married we became the people who only went to church once in a while and always on Easter. I loved to sing the hymn “Low in the Grave He Lay” because when I belted out “UP FROM THE GRAVE HE AROSE!!” I felt my late Grandma Jo in my whole being. I didn’t really connect with the words on a religious level, but it was a spiritual experience and connection with my grandmother. It was the same at Christmas; I loved to sing the hymns she did. Both holidays hold a lot of significance for me because of my Grandmother, but not necessarily because of my faith.
Which is a problem for a Christian since Christmas and Easter are the two most significant days for the Christian Church. They are the bookends of what our faith is about: God sent his Son via immaculate conception to save the world by being crucified on a cross only to rise again three days later. Immaculate Conception and Resurrection from the Dead–the cornerstone beliefs of what makes a Christian a Christian, right?
But there I was on Sunday, sitting all squeezed into the front row (because as usual, The Sluiter family does not count punctuality as their strength–my fault completely) next to a family I didn’t recognize (because it was Easter and everyone comes on Easter), watching some of the people I love most lead worship with joy and excitement for the celebration that Easter is, and I was feeling…nothing.
Regular Sundays are my jam. I feel fed and nourished by the teachings of Jesus and the community that surrounds and loves me and my family. The familiarity of the pattern of worship renews my soul: The Approach, The Greeting, A Worship Hymn, Confession, Prayer, Assurance, The Passing of the Peace, The Children’s Message, Prayer, The Lectionary, The Sermon, Prayer, Communion, Prayer, Offering, Prayer, Announcements, The Sending of the Children to Children in Worship, The Closing Hymn, The Benediction. Our three pastors–all friends who I cherish–deliver their sermons in their own unique voice and help me to see and learn and feel closer to the teaching and love of Jesus.
I believe in the teachings of Jesus. I believe in the love and acceptance he taught. I believe in taking care of each other and being kind and helpful. I believe in sharing what I have with others–especially if they have less. I believe in using my privilege for good and for positive change. I believe in forgiveness, although it’s often hard for me to put into practice.
And I believe Jesus died, because every human dies.
What I struggle with is the Resurrection. I know the Bible says it happened. I know that without the Resurrection Christianity is nothing. The whole idea is that Jesus was made human so he could save us. That by dying on the cross, going to hell, coming back to Earth, and then going to heaven, he saved humanity.
Sitting squished between Cortney and Eddie in that sweaty front row, I couldn’t look my dear friend and pastor in the eye as he preached. I just felt heavy. That this world just doesn’t feel saved.
I don’t read the Old Testament literally. It’s Ok if you do; more power to you. Really. I don’t think that I’m going to hell because I don’t believe Jonah was legit swallowed–and lived in the gut of–a large fish. I read them as allegorical stories. Literature that is meant to teach life lessons and meaning. And I read the New Testament with the idea that the culture it was written in (Greek) and about (Middle East) is very different than our current culture. That not everything is going to align exactly.
Yet as Christians, we are supposed to read the Easter story (and Christmas story) completely literally. THIS STUFF REALLY HAPPENED. Because if it didn’t, what is it all for, right?
So I am wrestling with myself. I want to believe in the Resurrection. I want to believe that because Christ died, we will all live.
Our pastor said Sunday morning that we do not have to fear death. That because of Christ, death loses its power.
I guess that is what my struggle boils down to: I do very much fear death–my own, but also the death of those who I love so deeply. I obsess about it. It’s part of my anxiety disorder. When my intrusive thoughts begin, it always centers on death. I become increasingly agitated and paranoid. I lose sleep. And then I fall into depression.
It always starts with thoughts of death.
Because what if this is it? What if all of this is man-made so we can tell ourselves we are not afraid of death?
I’m ending this post with a picture of Eddie, Charlie, and Alice on Easter morning outside of church. They are still filled with the joy of celebration. It was a special day at church. There were flowers and Alleluias. There was an egg hunt after the services. They wore new clothes (except shoes because I totally forgot they needed shoes). There was excited anticipation for the rest of the day that would be filled with family and candy.
I never want them to be afraid like I am.
My wonderful friend, The Pastor’s Wife, shared this link with me this week, and I ugly cried when I read it because it was exactly EXACTLY how I felt Sunday morning. If you are also feeling alone with your doubt, I strongly suggest clicking over.