Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Real Side of Easter

I walked into the 99 cent store the week before Easter and filled my cart with plastic eggs.

As I was loading them onto the belt in the check out line a raspy voice in the line behind me barked, "What are you going to do with all of that?" I looked up and saw an elderly lady, toothless and hunched, staring straight at me with an expectant look. She continued, "We can't gather in groups, so? What are you going to do with all THAT?!"

I felt my defense walls rise and wanted to be offended, but a small voice inside nudged me to be gentle. I saw it then. Fear. Seeping from underneath her anger, from every part of her, and compassion filled my heart instead.

So I told her about my five children, about how they loved hunting for plastic eggs, and I asked her if she was celebrating Easter in any way. She didn't seem to register my words, and started frantically pulling out every one of the items in her shopping cart to show them to me - the headbands, the pack of pink stretchy underwear, the small sewing kit, cotton hand towels - and explained that she was going to make herself face masks.

"Everyone should be wearing face masks," she said in a hot, judgmental tone, "and almost no one is." I might have felt embarrassed standing there with my nose and mouth bare, but I was trying to be gentle, and in my own experience embarrassment rarely leads to gentleness. So I focused on the fact that she, herself, was not wearing a face mask, and that I am actually quite comfortable and secure with the extreme measures I have taken to protect my community, and I felt strong again.

"I'm so glad you're making face masks," I said.

She didn't hear me. She had already moved on to how contagious 'this thing' is and how the CDC is full of bullsh** for changing their story about how long it lasts on surfaces. Her volume was rising steadily as she got more and more worked up, and by the time I took my receipt she was yelling and had started directing her rant towards the cashier.

It had escalated so fast all on its own and I wondered what would have happened if I had been snippy with her and had added fuel to her fire.

I've been thinking a lot about her for the past few days. I wonder how she's doing. That fear...

When I walked into my own home, arms full, I was greeted by happy children (relatively), a table full of food (in a messy kitchen), and a husband who was glad to see me (because he was a bit overwhelmed). My house was warm and bright and, more than all of that, it enveloped me in a wave of peace.

We celebrated Holy Week last week. We filled our home with Christ until it was bursting! And when I walked inside that Christ-centered home and felt that peace surround me, I felt that small voice teach me that the correlation was not coincidental. That by filling our home with Christ we had filled it with His peace.

Was the woman able to make her facemasks, I wonder? I hope they helped her find some peace...


I studied Christ's life throughout the Holy Week, and I felt a closeness to him in a deeper way than ever before. I mean, I've always felt like I know that He lives... that I know He's real... but something about last week drove my heart so deep into the stories that on the day I studied his trial and crucifixion, even with the chaos of children and noise all around me, I sat on my family room couch and dripped tears next to the open pages of my scriptures. Christ felt like such a dear friend to me; a dear friend that had endured so much on my behalf. It touched me deeply.

Two other characters in the story stuck out to me in a new way, Pontius Pilate is one. Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but I like Pilate. I believe he has a genuinely good heart. He never had the chance to develop a real testimony of Jesus Christ, given that he was a Roman, and an authority figure over Christ's situation, but I like to believe that if he had been given a real chance, his heart would have embraced Jesus as his own personal savior. Certainly something stood out to Pilate about Jesus's character, something struck him. He kept trying to get him released and when he eventually turned Jesus over to the Jews, he publicly washed his hands, symbolically declaring that he did not agree with what was about to happen. He crafted a sign to hang over Jesus that said: Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews. The Jews didn't like the sign, of course, and they asked Pilate to change it to he said I am king of the Jews, but Pilate said no. Was it a message? A small declaration of belief? I don't know, but I like to think that it was.

Pilate's story intertwines together in my mind with the story of another man, the criminal on the cross who hangs next to Christ. Obviously this man must have led a life contrary to Christ's teachings, as he was hanging on a cross for his crimes. Yet, when so many others mocked Christ - including the third man on the crosses - this criminal, hanging in his own agony, stood up for Jesus, and declared his belief that Jesus was an innocent man, and then even quietly unmasked his testimony further when he asked Jesus to remember him when He enters into His kingdom. Christ's gentle response to this man, "today shalt thou be with me in paradise."

Less than a day had passed since Christ had personally suffered for whatever sins had been committed by this man, and He didn't even hesitate to forgive. It's so beautiful to me. And with this criminal's story in mind, I love to think of how the conversation might have gone between Christ and Pilate when they met together in the afterlife.

Which oddly makes me think again of the dollar store woman... who is she? What would her story have been if she had been there in Jerusalem that week? One thing feels sure: Christ would have had nothing but peace and gentleness and forgiveness towards her no matter her behavior. And so, the small voice inside that nudged me to Be Gentle there in that dollar store was a quiet invitation for me to be a little more like Christ. Thinking of it now, I feel a bit honored. My response wasn't perfect... I was mostly just confused and in the end I just kind of walked away... but I was gentle. So maybe that's a step, anyway.


After Christ died, but before he was resurrected, we sometimes gloss over the fact that there was an entire day that passed. I keep thinking about that Saturday... about how many people must have felt thick, paralyzing darkness on the day after He died. There must have been so much sadness and confusion and disbelief and longing and fear... what a terrible day that must have been for those who loved Him.

It kind of feels like we're living in that Saturday right now with this Covid-19 pandemic. Sadness, confusion, disbelief, longing, fear... it's all there. It's big and overwhelming and sometimes it shows up in unpleasant ways when we're shopping for plastic eggs. And the hardest part is that we don't really know what's coming next. Is the economy going to crash? Are the schools going to open? Are we going to be okay?

The Jews in Jerusalem didn't really know what was coming next either. They didn't fully understand that Christ would rise again. How could they have understood when it seemed so unbelievable?

But we, today, have the honor of knowing that story. We have it written in four different accounts. We know that He literally stood up after He was dead and walked out of His tomb. He broke the bands of death.

He, the Light of the World, obliterated the darkness of Saturday.

It's the ultimate story of hope for me. I believe He will, in time, brighten every single dark corner in my heart and in the world. I think it's my faith in Him, my belief that there are good things to come, that helps to give me that deep, lasting peace I'm feeling right now in my heart and in my home.

Saturday is here and I feel so blessed to know that Sunday is coming.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. You brought tears to my eyes in your telling.