Feeling Easter

EasterAltar

Sometimes I struggle to feel holidays. It’s been like that for a decade or so. Oh, each Christmas season or Thanksgiving or Fourth of July, there will be “twinges”—brief, blissful moments when I encounter the essence of what that celebration represents. But more often, I have to repeatedly remind myself of what it means to be a part of the day. You are grateful. You are patriotic. You are generous. You are making the most of this.

I’d venture to say stress is usually the source of this disconnect. My heart might be fully given to whatever holiday spirit is required, while my mind is on the job I must soon return to, the money I had to spend to participate in the festivities, my growing disinterest in most things that involve large crowds and unnecessary noise, the photos I should probably post online of my great, great day.

Whatever the reason, I usually find myself working to embrace celebration the way I was able to as a child—fully, purely, without analysis or restraint. 

I couldn’t tell you exactly why this Easter was different. To be honest, I felt a bit aimless at first, stripped of the traditions I know. I didn’t buy a new dress, we couldn't travel to see our family and attend services in the church I was raised in, I lacked the foresight of the real adults who purchased a ham or prepared sides—but Easter arrived, all the same. And I settled deeply into it. 

The week before, Chris and I had responded to a call for volunteers to serve meals at a shelter, so Easter found us up before the sun, carrying trays of coffee and creamer through lines of tables decked with lilies for the day. I'll pause and acknowledge, I'm wary of writing much about this—volunteering isn't something we regularly do, so it feels complicated or insincere to claim it. And I won't pretend there's something noble about distributing breakfast; it's quite simple to start a day with brief greetings and the smell of biscuits. But I would say it's important; as my mom has expressed over many a plate of eggs and bacon, "Breakfast is love." I've been challenged recently by reading Henri Nouwen's thoughts on hospitality—on creating an open, friendly space for people to be together. It seemed fitting and useful to begin our observance of Easter in such a space.

We then left for a morning service to hold one of the rows that would soon fill with grandparents and parents and their children, wrangled and wriggling in their tiny seersucker blazers and fluffy dresses. To my delight, their bedhead still proved a formidable foe, bouncing in and out of the sunbeams that pressed through the stained glass. The light, now hued yellow and green and blue, wrapped warmly around the shoulders of the sleepy congregation.

Above the altar, someone had hung chains of bright origami cranes, folded carefully to enclose written prayers from the people. I thought of the scrawls they contained, the questions, struggles and longings now ascending playfully, in the shadow of a cross. 

The sermon spoke of darkness—like the kind that draped the sky as Mary made her way to the tomb, cloaking the most promising of mornings in uncertainty.

What would it look like to simply stay until it lifts? To push through whatever haze or blindness keeps us from experiencing hope? What might change as the hours pass and the rays break through, when we turn and recognize the stranger in the garden as our Friend?

During the recession, rather than a closing hymn, they played a pop song as a surprise. It’s one I can never bear on the radio, but as the clapping crowd watched the white robes twirl freely down the aisle, I couldn’t help but tear up. We followed them outside beneath the trees. The pastels popped against the springtime green, and children were already sweating through their fancy clothing in their hunt for hidden eggs.

There was a potluck, but our group opted to go grab burgers and milkshakes instead. We feasted with my brother and a handful of our dearest friends, people who’ve made Nashville feel a little more like home this year. We ate until we were full, napped longer than we intended, rose only for an evening walk and a back porch talk, watched the sky turn pink, then purple, then gray. 

So many days, I attempt so much, just trying to feel. But to wait, to be, to see, to share with others—what if that is all that is required?