On Facebook, a friend re-posted a blog on remembering the meaning of Purim. It inspired me to spend Holy Week getting back to the true meaning of Easter. After all, if you are a Christian, Easter – not Christmas – should be the major annual holiday. A little too late to observe Lent, I tried to figure out what the “Easter Spirit” would feel like and look like. Should we still have ham? Should we give gifts to our 4-year-old? How do you generate expectation and excitement without getting too commercial? What is the appropriate way to celebrate a person who was both God and Man dying for all us? The crucifixion always feels distant and impersonal to me. As Buddy in The Incredibles says, “If everybody is special, nobody is special.”
Palm Sunday the sermon was about how Easter and the crossing of the Red Sea are parallel stories of how God uses seeming failure to show His love and power. Wandering does not mean we are lost. God has set us free even when we do not feel we are free. When God directs us to camp between the water and wilderness, we fear death, starvation and even Pharaoh. But God is setting us up to show himself to us. In Exodus 14:14 Moses actually tells the people to be quiet and watch God work.
It was a relief to know that my present inability to swallow the Niagara Falls of our current life does not mean God had abandoned us, but I made no progress in finding my “Easter Spirit.” We had contracted a professional to provide a service for us. It was very expensive and very important. Although she spent the time, the product was only half useful. We had gone back to her multiple times over several months trying to get her to provide what we need. She argued with us. She blamed us. She said unpleasant things in such a pleasant way that made me wonder if I was the crazy person. After several months of this, we were still contractually obligated to pay her a very significant amount of cash. My husband and I kept discussing what was right and fair and coming to the same conclusion over and over of how we should handle the situation. But we never followed through because I could not come to peace.
How could I have agreed to the contract? Why did I not see that she was going to fail us? How come we cannot get help – even if we pay someone? I kept thinking of all the things I could do with the money we had to pay her. No matter what we say or do, she is going to be telling people stories about the crazy Christian couple who wasted her time and never got it. If we do not pay the bill, technically she could hire bill collectors.
Somehow I should have known. I should have made a better decision. Even though I know there was no way I could have foreseen that she was going to fail and how distressing the process would be, I blamed myself. I wanted it to go away. I felt sick to my stomach. I was tempted to do things that would help me forget about it. I added it to the longer than Santa’s list of events in my life I wish could be erased from my memory.
It was shame.
I needed to stop rehashing and let it go. We had to follow our plan to pay her bill with a discount – small enough of a discount that she would not bother with collection but a little something to go toward getting the unfinished work done by someone else. I was scared to send the payment or write the e-mail telling her the check would be a little short.
On Monday before Easter I am sitting at my desk trying to force my shaking hand to write the large check and asking God to help me suck it up. Then God spoke.
I got that.
I got that?
My husband and I have an inside joke about Episode 153 in season 7 of Everybody Loves Raymond. Ray goes to the steam room with his dad and all the old white guys. The men take turns talking about their aches and pains. After each man describes his ailment, one particular codger says, “Oh yeah. I got that.” I have a knee ache. “Oh Yeah. I got that.” I have a shoulder pain. “Oh Yeah. I go that.” Whatever injury you have, this guy has it too!
Isaiah 53: 4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But 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. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.
HE was winking at me.
I didn’t know she was going to fail.
I got that.
It’s a lot of money.
I got that, too.
I should have known.
I knew all this would happen when you were signing the contract. I knew it before I died on the cross and I died anyway. I know what you are going to do next year and I still died.
She’s going to send us a nasty e-mail that is going to make me think I am a failure all over again.
I got that.
I’m going to try to trust you that it will be okay.
So, here it is the Wednesday before what should be the biggest Christian Holiday of the year and I have finally figured out how to get in the Easter Spirit. Jesus does not want our best. He wants our worst. All I need to do is name all the things I feel ashamed about — both things that I did to others and others did to me. Mistakes, errors, disappointments, fears: anything that I think if you knew about, you would not be my friend. Anything I am afraid to confront you about because I believe I would be nothing without you. The pastry I just ate that was not in my calorie count and feeling completely lost on who to vote for. When I have named and collected all of that, along with my fear that my life will be pointless, my distress when my child throws a tantrum and the pervasive feeling that there is something wrong with me, that I’m missing something that everyone else has. . . I put it all in one giant Easter basket and give it to Jesus. Happy Easter, Jesus!
Oh yeah. I got that.