And so today is Easter. The day of days, to remember the moment of all moments, when the powers of death were swallowed up in the light of an empty tomb. I have spent the last several weeks in preparation for this day, and it has helped me immensely. Perhaps it prepared me more than I could have realized, for today was anything but a festive day.
I remember as a college girl, enjoying the sunrise services deep in the heart of Philadelphia, the full brass ensemble echoing through Rittenhouse Square as pigeons pecked through the cobblestones and sparrows twittered cheerily in the cherry trees. I remember sitting up on the grassy rise in the backyard of my childhood home, wrapped in blankets, chomping away happily on warm muffins and hot chocolate as the sunbeams rose and we listened to the marvelous story. I am sure today all over the world there were cathedrals and high school gyms ablaze with the sounds of worship and thanksgiving, pomp and celebration. But today, we saw none of that.
Instead of a sunrise service, we were cuddled on the couch reading the Story together. Instead of community of worship, I was trying to unpack with a feverish daughter on my chest. Instead of the sound of choirs and congregations crying out with praise, my lone and simple voice rocked sickness with resurrection lullabies. Instead of an Easter feast with friends and family gathered ‘round, there was peanut butter and jelly, and rice for dinner, with a whimpering, sweaty brow tucked tight against my arms. It certainly wasn’t the festive celebration I would have planned or that I can hope for again come another year, but in many ways it was just what has been planned for all along.
I’ve been reading Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. It is such a beautiful book, on so many levels. If you haven’t already, please, please read it if you are able. This time around, a new voice has stood out to me: the simple, quiet housekeeper who lets out rooms to the suffering minister who has come to Johannesburg to find his wayward son. She is forever serving, allowing Kumalo to bring his prostitute sister and her small son in from the streets, then allowing him to bring yet another young girl his son has made with child. She cares for these girls, feeds the entire group, covers Kumalo with her prayers and her daily small kindnesses. Three or four times throughout the story, she is thanked. Each time, she simply says, “It is for this we were born” or, “why else do we live?”
I keep thinking of her response, her way of living, and I am brought low.
Broken and spilled out. Wounded for our transgressions. With his stripes, comes our healing. His was a life poured out, a cup offered up, a sacrifice laid down.
The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Then he turns it on us to do the same. Powered by the same strength, armed with the same love, filled with the same Father-centered purpose, he asks us to lose our lives for the sake of others.
It’s what we’re to be known for isn’t it? It’s what makes us seem backward in a forward driven world. What seems more foreign to a survival-of-the-fittest humanity than giving up your own survival so another can thrive? Who thinks of others before their own interests are met? It seems like death, and indeed it is. For in losing your life, there you will find it.
Today I am humbled by my own ugliness, the sin that creeps up everywhere, clouding everything. I am humbled but I am lifted up. I died with him and now I can know raising life power. I feel defeat and yet I can claim victory because of Jesus. It is all Jesus. There is nothing for me but Jesus. I see him, high and lifted up, the Suffering Servant who bears all our sin and shame, and washes me clean once and for all- and over and over again.
I sit here with my weak little girl, writhing in her achiness, unable to do much but hold and rock her gently and I know that this is just the Easter celebration I need. He came to serve, he gave it all, he lost his life to give me mine, he rose again to make it sure, and I am learning day in, day out, “for what else are we Born?”