Happy Easter! Our Lord is risen from the dead, and in all the egg hunts, fancy meals, pretty outfits, and well-spent church exhaustion, I pray that we’re all both giving and receiving tastes of that miraculous, world-reversing good news. Also Peeps and jelly beans. (The Adequate Bunny who visited our house ate all the black jelly beans this morning. And they were sooooo goooooooddddd. Black-jelly-bean-haters, keep the critiques to yourselves, please.)
Easter seemed like an appropriate day to do some writing. I’ve been wanting to reach out to you dear folks who’ve been such a part of Chris’s and my walk through his illness, who’ve been the most amazing supporters of our writing and my music and our attempts to make some sort of meaning of the challenges of it all. There’s never been any pressure or any rush – because you all are wonderful like that – and so I’ve waited until I was ready. Easter is a time when Christians, after having spent intentional time taking sin and brokenness and death very seriously, get to laugh in joy at their defeat. It’s a good day to start something new, even after a long darkness that no one could fail to take seriously. Even with the shadow of that darkness continuing to penetrate our lives, and to leave its fingered marks on our souls.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.
(And so – Chris will be raised. He will rise indeed. And a whole army of beloved sinner-saints, they will be raised too. And you and I – when we shudder as we feel Jordan’s frigid waters lap against our feet – when we die with words of trust or terror on our mortal tongues – we, too, will be raised. Because we believe in the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.)
Will I talk much about this publicly going forward? Will I want to share more openly about what it felt like to hold a husband as he labored in his dying to new life? Will I choose to write about caregiving and cancer and marriage and widowhood, as many folks have suggested?
I’m not sure yet, about any of it. I know that I waited until it had been several years after our first miscarriage to write my book about pregnancy loss. I know that Nadia Bolz-Weber’s advice to “preach from your scars, not from your wounds,” has the resonance of wisdom. I know that many of those places feel too tender, in holiness, in pain, in simple privacy, to open more publicly; perhaps temporarily; perhaps for always.
However, there are some other stories I find myself ready to tell. I want to introduce you to some amazing people I’ve met and come to know. I want to tell you about resources I promised to describe months ago, before life upended for the nth time. I want to tell you about the album I’ve been working on – the album that may be ready for release, to my surprise, by late spring/early summer.
And – oh yes – by the way – I was received into the Catholic church in late February. I’d like to tell you about that as well. (I KNOW! This may totally seem like your cue to tell me how people shouldn’t make big decisions during Times of Stress, but let’s just agree to save that for later, shall we? :)) So in the future, we may be looking together at some Catholic Stuff That Confuses Good Protestants – I’m a learner in this space, and it’s pretty liberating and fun.
Finally, I’ve been asked what Easter was like this year. It’s a good question.
Last night, I attended the Easter vigil at St. John the Evangelist church. I arrived about two hours late (I’m making sure I’m the one to put the children to bed in these days), and sneaked into the back among the running toddlers and families and a white-bearded, beaming homeless man to whom my friend Scott had given money when we visited together in January. I arrived after the rest of my RCIA class had been received into full communion, after the baptisms, after the music. But our priest was celebrating mass, and I knelt in a pew and cried, hard, knowing I was lonely and oh, so very tired, and feeling the length of Holy Saturday like a tunnel with no end.
Again, the thing happened that has happened so often over the past four years: I placed myself into God’s presence, and life clarified around me. As I stared at the shining crucifix across the miles of the sanctuary, it glowed and seemed itself to be a source of light, and I knew again that love that permeates and undergirds every dark night of every soul. Dame Julian is right, somehow: all will be well, even though we hurt and kick against our prisons and suffer, sometimes profoundly. It will be well because God entered into that space with us, and filled it with God’s love and presence, and will lead us through and out again.
I said a bad word in my head, but for all the right reasons. “Forget you, despair,” I said (sort of). “I want no part of you.” And I imagined myself bringing my broken heart to the Sacred Heart of Christ, leaning into my own suffering, and I stared at the cross and asked God for courage to choose love.
And so after standing Vigil with the Catholics, I took my children to Cross of Grace this morning and we celebrated Easter with the Lutherans. Our pastors claimed the good news on our behalf, deeply enough to honor the depth of the cross, but joyfully, hopefully. And I thought again of what an act of defiance of evil it is to celebrate Easter. To acknowledge that “Satan shall buffet, trials shall come,” and yet, and yet, and yet we will continue to choose to love. We will continue to choose to open and not close our hearts, in defiance of the claim that to make ourselves vulnerable to love is to be endangered. We will continue to choose to give generously, in defiance of the warning that to release our possessions is to make ourselves insecure. We will continue to choose to rest, to play, to release certain kinds of ambition, in defiance of the claim that our worth is found in the achievements that are recognized by our world.
We will live resurrection. Because while we don’t seek suffering, we don’t have to be afraid of it. Pain can be a teacher, only because God enters into it with us, and gentles it to shape our souls. While we don’t seek death, we don’t have to fear it. God has entered it, spoken peace to its outer limits, and come back to tell us, “Don’t fear, dear ones. Love me, love your neighbor. Trust in me. All will be well.”
Christ is risen. Alleluia.
Happy Easter, loves.