Friday, April 14, 2017

A Different Kind of Easter

It's Friday, but Sunday is coming. For years, I've always looked forward to Easter. It's the fun and joyous part of Easter, right? Such a gift we've been freely given.

This is the first year I haven't prepared at all for Easter. April came in like gangbusters with all kinds of fires I've been trying to put out. So I have not one decoration up, not one Easter basket item bought, not a single outfit bought or thought of. As I think to myself to get these things done, I'm quickly convicted. The Spirit whispers to me, "this Easter can be different and it's okay! I want you to experience Me, not the things of Easter."

None of the above disqualifies me from Easter. Actually, if anything this Easter is teaching me that this, this lowly and sanctified life is way more like Easter than the way I've always done it.

I think about my childhood Easters and what they looked like. They were filled with wonderful memories. Egg hunts, family, the most perfect of Easter basket (gift giving was my mama's love language), pretty outfits, and ham. They were delightful. They were fun. They were good. All things I wish for my family, but in this season of life I'm feeling less than adequate to throw together a picture worthy Easter. 

So what happens when your Good Friday doesn't feel so good? Or when life doesn't look as if you'd imagined or hoped?

Easter was my mom's favorite holiday. It was also around her birthday. April was a month, I always looked forward to because of the celebrations it consisted of. It was like spring saying, "I am here and it's a new season." New seasons feel like a fresh start and who doesn't love a fresh start? This year, I have been bummed about how things have gone and honestly just weary. We always gathered at my parents for Easter and now we have no plans. In just a few short years, my life has been completely rearranged in terms of holidays. It looks different and honestly the holidays are a visible reminder of the pain my family has faced over the last few years.

"At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" - which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mark 15:33

Leading up Jesus' death, it was a hard road. A road with much suffering. There was grief, sorrow, doubt, weeping, and even feelings that his Father had forsaken him. While this week or leading up to Easter hasn't been the usual planning or excitement in years past, it's been one that has my spirit wrestling in ways that has led me to sit at His feet, rather than rush around them. It is one that has caused me to feel the pain and hurt that this world brings. It is one that has me stripping away the nonsense, forcing me to focus on only Him. It is one that doesn't feel good, but that doesn't mean it isn't good.

It's forced me to focus on the suffering of Christ and not just the resurrection. As believers, we love the resurrection part. The rising up of life. We love the Sunday of Easter because it's a celebration. 

But how often do we overlook the Friday before and what it means to us? To us, individually. Or even the church for that matter. How often do we skip the hard, painful parts to get to the glory part? This Easter, I don't want to skip the brutal reality of Good Friday. Yes, Sunday is coming but there was much that happened before than. I recently read something that I keep thinking about: "We all want to go to heaven, but none of us want to die." 

Isn't that the truth? Kind of like we all want faith, but don't want to work for it. Or we all want to be blessed, but don't want to open our Bibles. We want resurrection Sunday, without the Good Friday.

Christ came to the earth as the Son of God- clothed in flesh. He came so He could know exactly what it would be like for us here while we walked the earth. His flesh poured out for us. So when He would redeem us on that Sunday, He would have already experienced every thing his children might experience.

Scripture tell us he was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.  

But oh how we love to put on our brave faces. And decorate our homes and hearts, even when the closets are filled with such mess and clutter. Filled to the brim with things no one even knows, yet He does know. We are only cheating ourselves when we don't let him into the darkest places of our lives. Maybe it's in the lowliest and yuckiest places of our lives, He loves us to meet us at, not at the picture worthy tablescapes or to do list.

We decorate with lovely things from Hobby Lobby, beautiful things from Target or HomeGoods and set the table just perfectly for all to see. A celebration fit for a King. Or if we're being honest, it's really for ourselves. Don't get me wrong, I love pretty tablescapes and things, but that is not what God is after. And if I'm being honest, my mom's house is still filled to the brim with things she did not take with her. They are simply that- things that occupy space. None of those things bring Him glory.

I've been criticized for being too open and honest. For putting too much out there. But here's the thing, we are all broken. We all issues. We all have hurts. We all have cluttered closets full of things that Jesus carried for us so we wouldn't have to hide or carry them ourselves.

Jesus cannot redeem the things in which you don't give Him. Jesus cannot heal the broken places in your lives, if you aren't willing to hand them over to Him. Jesus cannot raise the broken to life without you giving Him that part of your life.

He already did the work on that good Friday so many years ago. Now it's up to us to do our part. To come to table to experience His grace. To pull up a chair and sit with Him. To lay down our hurts. To come to Him- broken and falling apart.

He never expects us to get it together first, then come to Him. We aren't capable of getting it together anyway. Only He redeems, restores, and heals. Only He lifts raises the dead to life. We only get to partake in the goodness of what this days brings. And thankfully, we don't have to wait until Easter or Sunday to experience His resurrecting power. 

Good Friday. A day filled with pain, sorrow, and death. 

There was not an Easter decoration in sight, an Easter hunt to be had, or the perfect outfit picked out. Those who crucified Christ actually tore up his clothes so they could divide it amongst themselves. Casting lots to see what they would get.

It's in our pain, which we can learn the characteristic of Christ. It's in our closets, where when we clean them out, He can fill them with holy redemption. Removing the lies, hurts, and sorrows- replacing them with truths that free us. It's where Good Friday becomes a manifestation of the sacrifice poured out on that very day. 

3He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. 5But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.…
Isaiah 53:3-5

It's where we can seek refuge in Him. It's where we can declutter and rearrange in such a way that is good. It's where He heals us.

On a not so good Friday, you allow yourself to the feel the pain or grief. You give yourself grace. You take your weary and burdened soul to Him and you lay it down. You lift up your face. You go home to the only One who knows what you are feeling. You fall into the One who carried your brokenness and nailed to a tree, in order to set you free. You allow yourself to be okay with the lack of decorations, Easter outifts, and your shortcomings. And you let yourself sit at the table with Him, instead of the ham & fresh baked rolls. You get real with yourself and hand over the cluttered you've been hiding away. Then you break bread with Him and drink from His cup, the one which never runs dry and you eat the bread which was broken for you. You offer up the only thing which you have- whether it be your broken heart, marriage, addiction, sin, your anger, or your pride and you let Him rearrange and spread His unfailing love upon the walls of your broken heart & sin. You remember the suffering in which He endured on that Good Friday. & you remember that it's Friday, and Sunday is coming.

That this season won't last forever, but while it lasts you don't want to waste the very thing in which He is doing. You might not do the things you've done before, and that's okay because of the sacrifice on the Cross. The crucifixion should force us to change and transform us. But He can't resurrect what we aren't willing to nail to the Cross. 

We can't experience life without death and we can't experience Him without the Cross. God’s way is always the way of suffering— the way of the “long road home.” Not to punish us but to transform us. Letting go of the old and creating us anew. We don't have to be brave, because He was and is brave for us. Just as we should never stop sharing His story of the Cross, we should never stop sharing what He has done for us in our own lives: transforming and redeeming. Holy redemption where earth has no sorrow, that Heaven can't heal. 

Let all that hinders us from experiencing His resurrecting power be tossed to the side, just as easily as we toss the eggs out on the lawn. Instead of gathering eggs this Sunday, may we gather His truths and goodness and pin them on our hearts for the days and weeks to come. May we experience Christ in such a way that transforms us into the people He died for.

People of broken, weary places- raised to life through death. People who drink from His cup rather than the worlds. People who allow their brokenness to be a nailed to the tree, in exchange for freedom. Transformed in the way of a Cross. Arms stretched out. Exchanging sorrow for life. Broken and free. Written and redeemed. 

There's no other way I'd want to live on this Good Friday.

Broken, yet free. Dirty, yet clean.

Perhaps not feeling so Easter-y this year is just what my heart needed to understand the sacrifice of the Cross. To transform my broken to life. To fill my heart, instead of my basket. To know and feel the greatness of a man who without knowing I'd follow Him, would still die and carry my sorrows and grief. To experience true redemption. Again and again.

And that my friends, is what makes today good. Even when it didn't feel good and He felt forsaken, He still carried out the task before Him saying, "it is finished." 

Redeeming mankind. Redeeming every square inch of our broken, tattered lives.

My hope for you this Easter is you experience His grace like never before. That the walls you've built up around you, are torn down. That the clutter that consumes your mind would be replaced with sweet whispers from His spirit. That you would come to the Jesus who longs to dwell in that space- transforming you. Setting you free.

That today or the Cross isn't wasted. That even when life isn't good, you know He is still good.

Instead of rushing around getting things done for Easter, I hear Him saying, "come as you are, Nancy. For earth has no sorrow, that heaven can't heal. I carried your transgressions so you didn't have to, so lay them down." Instead of stressing over the to-do list or Easter baskets or outfits, this Easter you can find me at His blood stained feet, letting Him pour over me. Laying it down, once and for all. That's the most beautiful thing about our Savior...He never rushes around or keeps busy, instead He waits for us.

May He be lifted high as we lay down our burdens. May our life be a song that sings of His goodness, even in the places & days/seasons that aren't so good. May our Easter be more about His goodness than the things of Easter. May He helps us be brave enough to endure the Good Fridays in our lives. Transforming us into what He wills vs what we will. Redeeming us for His future glory. May His crimson blood pour over us, washing us clean of the clutter and messes we've made of ourselves. May the Cross beckon "welcome home" on this heart of mine.

I've never been more grateful for a different kind of Easter or for my not so Good Friday.