I started mentally writing this piece on the four hour road trip back home from my in-laws in Bemidji. Sarah and the boys are staying up there for the week, which means I have a few days of bachelorhood. Usually, I love these times but I’ll be spending it doing nothing but work and homework. It’s also spring…which means I have spring fever…and I have a super hot wife…and when I left her today, she was looking extra super hot…praise God for cold showers.
I left Bemidji with a fuzzy mind due to no sleep, achy lungs from a lingering sickness, and an incredibly happy heart, as today – 4/24/2011 – I celebrated my first Easter.
Allow me to explain.
This year I realized that I’ve never really, truly celebrated Easter. Today was the first time and it was awesome. So much so that Easter has replaced Christmas and Cashmere Pulaski day (people from Illinois know what I’m talking about) as my favorite holiday. So why the sudden change? Three reasons:
1. To put it in Christian-ese, it’s the first time in a long time that I got to be more of a Mary instead of a Martha.
Currently, I am not a pastor or actively involved in any church ministry. And while this is sometimes a bothersome fact, it made all the difference in my Easter. Pastors have the unfortunate task of working themselves stupid during Easter time. When I was doing the whole Pastor gig, the entire month was plagued with anxious questions. How are going to get butts in the seat for Easter? How are we going to retain those butts? What if the butts don’t like the service? What if there are too many butts? What if one of the visiting butts is the fire marshal?
I believe the church should put on the best game face during Easter, so it’s good that pastors and ministry people give 200% during Easter. But it was truly nice to not have to worry about all that and just be able to focus on what Easter is all about. So if you had an awesome Easter, don’t forget to thank your pastors and big-hearted, over-worked suckers that do 50% of the churches work for free. Chances are, if any of these people were ever tempted to take up smoking, post Easter service would be the time to do it.
2. I got my ADD under control.
Go ahead and laugh. I’m laughing about it. But it is true. Up until a few months ago, I could rarely sit through a sermon without my brain reverting to the attention span of a puppy in a new backyard. This has made a world of difference in my life.
3. I finally get it.
I’ll walk you through a brief history of all the other Easters I’ve experienced. When I was a kid, Easter was about waking up to an basket full of goodies, having a few days off school, and the fact that shorts season was just around the corner. Oh, of course I was trained to say that Easter was all about Jesus, but the eight-year old of my past had to come clean on this one. I was way more excited about Cadbury cream eggs and fake plastic grass than as aspect of my religion that I didn’t fully understand.
During my teenage years when the parents decided to cut out the candy-filled baskets in our Easter traditions, I still really didn’t celebrate Easter. To be perfectly honest, I loved God and was happy in my faith, but Jesus said and did things that struck me as kind of odd. And I just didn’t get why Easter was so important with all of its special hymnal songs and church marquees saying things like “Hallelujah! He is risen!” To me, God rising from the dead was a given. He’s God, why wouldn’t he do that? What’s so special about him resurrecting? He did tons of other cool stuff like ascend to Heaven and walk on water. Why is this particular event singled out so much? I’m sure many teachers and pastors did really good jobs explaining all of this stuff, perhaps I was just slow on the uptake.
This mindset carried on to the few years of ministering in the church where Easter then became more of a chore than a disaffected holiday. Easter typically meant an influx of visitors who normally don’t go to church any other time of year. Easter, to me, was more of an evangelism tactic instead of a celebration. I didn’t experience joy on Easter, I experienced anxiety and lack of sleep.
But all that changed this year.
This year I learned just how awesome the stories of Jesus are and how vital and incredible the resurrection is to the Christian faith and the world. The resurrection is more exciting and grandiose and important than any other event in human history. It marks the day where God inaugurated the amazing and wonderful and eternal things that he promised.
The resurrection is like the pre-sale before the grand opening of Heaven.
And Easter is the remembrance of that fateful day where we join with millions and millions of people throughout thousands of years of history in what should be the most joyous celebration of all time.
And who said church was lame?
We spent Easter at my in-laws church in Bemidji ; an Evangelical Free church that I’ve grown to really enjoy. The members of the church have more of a quiet and reserved passion and a humble yet robust knowledge of God. The pastor, an extremely intellectual PhD, is never flashy with his academic credentials and is a pastor in every sense of the word. And while the service style wouldn’t be my first choice (even though I still really enjoy it) for my ideal church, everything today felt magical. Every pump of the organ, every chime of the bell choir, every flip of a hymnal page all seemed to resound in beautiful harmony. As a charismatic person by nature and someone who cries at the drop of a hat, it was hard for me not to stand out as a blubbering, bawling idiot in the middle of a reserved church. And I only hope that I can carry on this mindset far past the borders of one day.
Because Easter was not meant to be celebrated for only one day out of the year.
So my first Easter was incredible. Regardless of where I am next year, I plan on making Easter as good as or better than this year’s. If I’m still free from the responsibilities of ministry, maybe I’ll spend it with a more orthodox group like the Anglicans , or a more soulful church like my old all black church (with the exception of me) in St. Paul. Or maybe I’ll once again be joyously neck deep in the responsibility of tackling an Easter program for a church where I’ll have to balance out both Mary and Martha. They can be high-maintenance chicks sometimes. Regardless of where I am, I can’t wait until next Easter. I’m going to party it like it’s 1999…or 30 AD.