Easter is coming, one of my favorite times of year. I love both the sacred and secular aspects. I get a kick out of watching my kids hunt eggs, and every year, I look forward to preparing myself for Easter joy by first attending my church’s Maundy Thursday service. It doesn’t just commemorate the Last Supper but the events of Good Friday in the form of a service of tenebrae (darkness).
For me to truly appreciate Easter, I must first immerse myself in the grief of the disciples during Jesus’ last hours. No matter what you think or believe about him, Jesus was certainly real and suffered a terrible death. Imagine how his followers felt – people who had hope that he would put the Romans in their place and bring God’s kingdom as only a holy monarch could do – watching him be mocked and put to death in such a humiliating fashion. They must have lost all hope, unaware that Easter was coming.
Holy Week encompasses the lows and highs of humanity, much as some days or weeks stand out in our own lives. Life doesn’t wait for a time when you can handle it to fling you off your mountaintop into the valley. It’s only appropriate that I had one of those “stand out” days on Maundy Thursday.
It was a busy day. My kindergartner had his school egg hunt and Easter party, and his school day ended on a high. In the afternoon, I had to rush to get all my grocery shopping done and get through my usual chores, so I could go to church. As my children were splashing and giggling in the bathtub, I received the unexpected and numbing news that our family, with whom we just spent a wonderful vacation, had experienced a terrible loss. My heart ached, and I wished I could be across the country to comfort them. I felt helpless, confused. How could this happen? And during Easter week, of all times.
Because life goes on amidst tragedy, I went to church as planned, reminded that there are many people for whom Easter never seems to arrive – or is pulled right out from under them. I don’t mean the specific Christian celebration of Easter; I mean the rainbow that follows that storm, the light that banishes the shadows. Hope.
Everyone spends time in the valley, whether it’s losing a loved one, going in for a routine check up and leaving with the knowledge of a mortal illness, or being knocked flat by a sudden life change. During these times, our Easters are slow in arriving. We can become lost in the whys and trying to make sense out of something senseless.
As a writer, I often explore my feelings or try to work through a difficult situation by writing. Painters may lose themselves in acrylics and a blank canvas. Songwriters create some of the most moving melodies and lyrics. I’m thinking in particular of the stories behind the hymns Precious Lord and It Is Well with My Soul. These songs have brought comfort to generations of Christians, even though they were written from the depths of grief.
Enjoy your Easters, your mountaintop experiences. Unexpected joy is a gift that balances the dark times, the tenebrae of our lives. But don’t get so high in the clouds that you become deaf and blind to the darkness that still consumes others. Your own valley experiences can help you be the quiet listener, the compassionate friend, the comforter for someone else in need. You may not even realize that working through your own grief has helped the sun rise for someone who is still lost in the valley.
Precious Lord, take my hand.
Lead me on, let me stand.
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light.
Take my hand, Lord. Lead me home.
– Thomas A. Dorsey