Lent started on February 26th which now feels like a whole decade ago. I remember when the first suggestions of social distancing began, there was a joke floating around the internet: “I didn’t think I’d be giving up THIS MUCH for Lent.”
I think over the last couple of weeks I’ve noticed a shift in attitude. Yea, we still try to approach social distancing and COVID-19 with humor but at the same time…….the loss is getting pretty loud.
This Easter, most of us in the Christian community will spend Easter at home. No churches swarmed with visitors. No fancy new dresses and suits. No grandiose worship services shoulder-to-shoulder with our brothers and sisters in Christ. In my entire life I’ve only ever missed an Easter service once, and so I’ve had a range of emotions leading up to this Easter weekend.
One side of me thinks, “hey, maybe celebrating Easter without all the fanfare will be really special. No performing for others by dressing up in our best. No stress in getting the family all dressed up and smiling at the camera for the perfect photo. Just a simple online streamed service and a whole day to be with my husband and son as we celebrate the One who gave everything for us.”
But, dang, this feels like a huge loss. No rejoicing over the risen Savior with my brothers and sisters. I mean, sure, we’ll celebrate together online but that will never replace the energy of all of us together in a room. No family meal shared with other people we love. No community Easter egg hunts. As our lives have been stripped of activity after activity, losing our normal way of celebrating Easter feels like a gut punch.
To be honest my emotions have been all over the place as this situation has evolved the last several weeks. (And it varies from hour to hour it feels like.) I rejoice over both Roman and I getting to work from home and keeping our jobs. I’ve loved the slower pace and the drastic reduction in our gas budget. I’ve cried over businesses that I work with that will struggle to survive this virus. I watch the numbers from our home counties and my stomach churns every day. I think we all feel this roller coaster of emotion if we’re being honest with ourselves. Living through a global pandemic is not something any of us wanted to add to our life’s story.
But what do we do with the emotions? Cover it up with memes and funny YouTube videos? Deny it all as a giant conspiracy theory? Put on a brave face and hope life will go back to normal in a week or two?
I’d like to propose that we look to Good Friday as our answer.
It’s strange that we call it Good Friday. A day where Jesus was tortured and murdered on our behalf. His skin literally ripped from His body. And we call that Good Friday? But it was for our good, right? For “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) His willing sacrifice of His own body makes this day good. His resurrection three days later is our salvation and restoration. We celebrate Good Friday every year because we know Easter Sunday is right around the corner.
Maybe during COVID-19, we hold our emotions in both hands. We hold the fear and the uncertainty and the disappointments in one hand, and we hold the gratitude and the future hope and the joy in the other. We let it all mix together and we offer it all up to our Jesus who knows first-hand what it is to suffer. We recognize our losses and rejoice in what we have all while we wait for this to pass and hope for our world to recover. We don’t force ourselves into denial or fake smiles, nor do we let ourselves spiral in fear.
After all, Jesus created us with our emotions and called it good and He chose to walk this earth for 33 years as one of us. He cried over a friend right before raising him from the dead (John 11:35). He agonized in a garden (Luke 22:44). He also told His disciples “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15) And even as He hung on a cross, He had concern for His mother (John 19:26-27). We serve a Savior who died crying.
To carry on this weekend (or any other day, for that matter) denying our emotions and stuffing them down or letting them rule us is to live outside of our design. To live outside of the very pattern of the God-man who died for our very life.
So I’ll say without any shame: this Easter is hard. And yea, I never planned to give up this much for Lent. I’m confused by the news and sad that my son can’t go to preschool and frustrated at people who refuse to follow the guidelines so we can save lives in our community. I’m so disappointed I won’t be in a church building this Sunday but so thankful for the technology that allows us to still be together. I’m hopeful for the future while insecure about how long recovery will truly take. I can’t wait to see my friends and family and hug the life out of them. And while this day over 2,000 years ago meant the brutal torture and death of Jesus, I will still call it Good Friday because His death means my union to Him for all of eternity.
Happy Easter weekend, my friends. Take care of your hearts and be gentle with yourselves and kind to the ones in your home. No matter the circumstance we find ourselves in this weekend, we can truly celebrate because He is risen.
He is risen indeed.