Spring break is closing out across the South, and many of us spent it at the beach, chasing the sun, trading lines of interstate traffic for the lovelier line where water meets the sky. We drove home, rejoining life with its higher velocity struggles—and just in time for Easter Sunday.
This year, things went a little sideways at our house, and the “sunrise service” arrived at 3:30 a.m., when I accompanied one of my family members to the emergency room. I probably don’t have to describe the ER waiting room in the city at 4:00 a.m. on a weekend night. If you’re imagining screaming drug addicts, a brawl at the front desk, homeless men, and the sickly indigent, you’re on the right track.
Growing up, Easter meant white shoes, Easter baskets, and the aroma of roast in the wee hours of Sunday morning. It meant Sunday school flannelgraph scenes—three crosses on a hill and white linens draped on a bench in an empty tomb. The church would always be packed, and some ladies even wore hats; back then, everyone went to church at Easter and Christmas.
During those years, simple as they were, I struggled to appreciate the gospel weight and dramatic scenes of Easter. My theology didn’t stretch to explain the white-shoes-only rule; and how does one hold the risen Christ alongside the Easter bunny? I hated wearing white stockings that wouldn’t pull all the way up, but I loved my Easter baskets filled with weird, fake grass. Maybe it’s like Christmas—a treasure lost in the noise of cultural candy.
In the same way that Christmas festivities both mark and mar the incarnation, some trifling pleasures obscure the resurrection. They are fall short of painting Easter in its weightier glory. One of the great beauties of being almost 50 is that I can now soak in the reality of Easter—the otherworldly rescue that speaks a deeper joy than bright clothes and chocolate.
Easter is the good news following gore. It wasn’t just an injustice in the life of a compassionate man. It was the purposeful plan of God, the violent death that bore his wrathful justice, the only acceptable currency for debts of sin. When Jesus died, I died; but when he rose, I did, too—a mystery inscribed on my rough-and-tumble life.
When you’re little, you can’t imagine the weight of fear, sin, and death; so candies, bunnies and white clothes seem easier—happier, and more within reach. Years pile on, though, and with them the ugly burdens of evil within, not to mention its destructions in our world that rages without.