Easter is one of my earliest memories.
Being gently shaken from sleep, drowsily rustling through Easter baskets, mine with skittles and a pink bunny that didn’t leave my side all day.
I remember how very dark it was, being carried to the car, and had no idea why we were all going somewhere in what seemed like the middle of the night.
I remember standing on the beach in a circle and singing,
“Your name is like honey on my lips,
Your Spirit like water to my soul.
Your word is a lamp unto my feet,
Jesus, I love You. I love You.”
Words burned into the most tender part of my soul, as daylight lifted the darkness.
I remember 20 Easters that were full of Daisy Kingdom dresses, cardigans and tights. Long weekends of church services, candy, and family dinners.
And then there was the Easter I forced myself to go to church mere days after Jesse died, knowing if I didn’t make a choice then and there to be around people, I would drift off into oblivion and shadowy grief. I remember sitting close to my friends, feeling as though they were holding me up.
I remember resurrection being more desperately important on that day than any of the Easters before it.
Then came five Easters of questions and rebuilding; hoping that His work was strong enough for me, for my world.
Oh, but this year.
My mother shared her testimony during our church’s Easter service, specifically of my brother who was lost in the cold waters that sunny day in March. She spoke of the fisherman and the light that pierced through the trees, down 15 feet of water, to find my brother. I had never heard this part of the story, at least not that I remembered in my sorrow-filled haze; only, “a fisherman found him”. I instantly remembered Psalm 18, my anthem through this grief, and verse 16 which says:
“He sent from on high, He took me,
He drew me out of many waters.”
My God gave us such a gift. I never knew what a divinely beautiful thing happened that day. It is intense to talk about, but I needed to hold and weep over my brothers body to say goodbye. What a different story I could have had. His light did not leave Jesse.
Not even after the end.
As my mother spoke in front of hundreds, tears streamed down my face. But I was not alone. Several others grabbed tissues, listening to a woman who had experienced world-shattering, life-ending grief. And there she stood. Pointing to the grace of God.
Our pastor continued, and gave the altar call. Heads were bowed, eyes were closed, room silent.
But in my spirit,
My head remained raised; eyes watchful. A few lifted hands were scattered throughout the room.
“I’m bringing many more sons Home.”
What washed over me in that moment, I struggle to find words to describe. No really, I’ve re-written this section several times already, and even hesitated to share that part of the story at all. But I don’t believe that an easily-explained, clean, mystery-free picture of faith is an honest one, so the confusing (for me) part of the story stays. I don’t know why these things happen, or even if there is a why, if I’m being honest. What I do know though, is that God has never once wasted an opportunity to bring beauty from my grief. I don’t think Jesus has caused my pain, but I see that He has never let it be for nothing. There in that moment, I witnessed new life come from death. Not just as I sat in that seat, but (cheesy as it sounds) in my heart. And I see in my life the reality that is 2 Corinthians 5:17,
“ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
I’ve often given the darkness too much credit– and understandably so. I’ve seen sorrow and grief destroy and turn away and separate in an instant, and redemption can take painfully long. The darkness seems insurmountable, unchallengeable, impenetrable. But then and there it all came together in the most powerful way– and it occurred to me in that moment that He is stronger, brighter, more brilliant than any darkness or grief I will find myself in.
And not because darkness is weak, insignificant, or blown out of proportion in our minds. It is because His light is that strong. I don’t expect life to ever be easy or without heartache. But I know to my core that the love of Jesus is strong enough to lean on. He can take the full weight of my pain, of anything I find myself facing in life.
So this morning, this beautiful Easter morning, I woke up in darkness. Excited (really, more excited than anyone should be at that hour) and filled with anticipation. We trudged out onto the dewy field as twilight dissipated, birds warming their voices. Though the dark had seemed so very, very, dark—I finally believed with all resolution that what was coming next was much, much stronger.
And as gold outlined the horizon, the mountain even paled in its light, my heart could hardly wait to joyfully respond:
“He is risen, indeed!”