Post -Easter Thoughts

Easter. As the year goes on and we reach the season when Christian holidays begin to be celebrated, I find myself once again coming out of an Easter funk. Overthinking, ruminating and wondering why I’m still processing my life of faith and why it’s so hard to just let go of what was and lean in to what is. It’s a bit complicated with me because as I’ve said multiple times in this blog, I was once a sold out, all/nothing, Evangelical Christian. I was a leader in ministry, a teacher in an Evangelical Christian school and couldn’t imagine any kind of life better for me. I was a devout follower of Beth Moore, Women of Faith, Focus on the Family and heavily involved in The Right to Life movement. I was devoted to the Bible as the Word of God, believed it to be literal and without error and embraced the doctrines of the churches I attended with a whole heart. I loved my life and its certainty for a very long time and never expected to depart from it. Then life happened.

In 2004 my daughter experienced a severe mental and emotional breakdown that nearly took her from us. Severe mental illness wasn’t supposed to happen in the Evangelical world, in my Evangelical world. I was encouraged to believe from the time I came to faith at 16 that if Jesus was on the throne of my life because I lived in a continual state of repentance and was filled with the Holy Spirit, my circumstances would move into alignment and I would live an abundant life. I was told that I would certainly experience tests and trials but as long as I was in surrender to God, I would be righteous and above the average person. I was in and anyone not of the Evangelical persuasion was out. Mental illness, in my world was always rooted in the person’s inability to believe the truth and therefore vulnerable to satanic oppression. It’s an absolutely horrific experience when the worldview that has held you up for most of your life proves insufficient and even worse, abusive and contributing to your child’s illness. To find yourself in a psychologist’s office desperate for help knowing that if you don’t find it there you will simply have to bury your own child. It is hands down the loneliest and most difficult place I have ever had to experience and live through.

I inched my way out of my work at the Christian school and though I remain so very grateful for those who supported me there, my daily experiences with prayers for the release of demons harassing my child, reproofs from well-intentioned believers that I had caused her illness by saying her diagnosis aloud followed by the serious wound of friend asking me if I thought she was so ill because she was just spoiled…all worked to force me out the door while she was far away in a residential treatment. I stopped all activity in any part of the institutional church and its culture, isolated myself from anyone who could potentially lob another spiritual grenade my way and made plans to move away at the end of the semester. In the years that followed, we as individuals and as a family experienced what it meant to be free to think, to reason, to ask hard questions and to live our own lives for the first time without permission from the Bible or the church. Dean and I would not have met had we not been Evangelical Christians in a campus ministry. I count my lucky stars all of the time that we were alike in our ability to face reality and ask the hard questions. It is because of that shared gift that we found a way to validate our daughter’s real lived experiences and could empower her to heal herself. At the same time, doing so required us to die to all of what brought us together in the first place. Choosing to live and create an entirely new life together is really, really hard work. The losses we have experienced will never compare to what we have gained but nonetheless, they were and are often still emotionally difficult.

When Easter arrives for me personally, I find myself incredibly drawn into the story because in so many ways, it is my story. Not to equate myself to Jesus in any kind of one and only son of God way, but to profoundly find in its details a parallel lived experience. It no longer matters to me if the resurrection was a literal experience or is a metaphorical representation of one. The impact of the imagery and its lesson is the same either way. The reality of Easter for me is entirely in the power of the story. I once held it up as literal and proof of the certainty that my religion was the one true one. I can no longer do that. What I can do is share with you the parallel as I have experienced it.

The Easter story is about a man who was born into a religious family and culture. He was loved and nurtured within that culture but was one of those kids who was way more curious and questioning than his peers. He drove the religious scholars crazy with his observations and the questions that followed. I personally do not believe the Bible as the exclusive and literal account of the life of Jesus. It wasn’t recorded in real time as no one was there with their iPhone of the day recording it as it happened. Much of what is written was done by writers recalling past events, some even decades later. The original information was at first passed along verbally and even after it was written on paper and printed, church leaders were the only ones who could read it. I think that there is enormous freedom to evaluate it without being locked into the literal/inerrant cage.

I love to read and consider Jesus’s approach to everything. Sometimes I agree with what I read and sometimes not. It is faith for me in the truest sense to approach it this way. Jesus remains the center of my religious experience because he was always able to rethink the normal and cut through all of it. In the Bible’s account of the woman brought to him caught in the act of adultery (can you imagine?) Jesus’s true colors come to light for me. Picture the scene. A whole bunch of testosterone driven humans full of religious zeal dragging this scantily clad woman to Jesus. Fired up for the opportunity to participate in her murder they seek Jesus’s affirmation only to have him say that the one’s free of sin should be the only ones to stone her. They all had to leave and he told the woman to leave and that he wasn’t there to accuse her either. That is the Jesus that makes me want to model my life after him. That is the Jesus I still follow. And Easter? Easter means a lot to me because it reflects what Father Richard Rohr describes as the paschal mystery in a daily devotional.

“From evolution and the lifecycle of stars to our own lives, transformation and change appear to happen through periods of loss, crisis, stress, and even death. Physicists today would say that loss of energy or matter is not real. There is only transformation. Think of the changes water goes through in its journey from cloud (vapor) to liquid (rain) or solid (ice) and back to vapor. What may look like loss or death is in fact a becoming.

Spiritual teachers in all the great traditions have said the same thing in different ways. In Christianity, it was called the paschal mystery. Jesus became the living image of that pattern; his crucified body was transmuted, transformed into the risen Christ. Jesus taught and showed us that “unless the grain of wheat dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

We might say that creativity and new life have a cost. The cost looks like death but really isn’t. We perceive death and loss as enemies and afflictions because they appear to be the opposite of life. Spiritually speaking, to somehow embrace loss is to find eternal life. Death allows us to be united with what is really real. To avoid all loss, to avoid all letting go, is to avoid transformation into God, into union, into something more. Wisdom teachers say that if you spend your whole life avoiding dying, you’ll lose your real life.

This is about as counterintuitive as it gets. There is no rational explanation or proof. We have to experience it to know that it is in fact true—just as true for us humans as throughout the natural world. As Jesus said, “You must lose your life to find your life” (Matthew 10:39; 16:25).

Gateway to Silence:
Let it go; let it be.

This is how I’m reflecting on Easter this year.

7 thoughts on “Post -Easter Thoughts

  1. Thank you Jane for this heartfelt message from you. It is something I needed to hear. I have never had a faith as deep as yours and from the very beginning growing up in First Baptist, I had competing thoughts. This may have been in part because my folks did not attend church but sent us as the pastor of First Baptist stopped by my father’s place of business and invited him to send his six kids to Sunday School. If the pastor of the Lutheran church had stopped by we probably would have been Lutheran. The Lutheran Church was certainly more in line with my parents ideas that drinking alcohol, dancing , going to movies, and smoking were okay. Instead, they would have to listen to me tell them all those things were sins and my Lutheran friends would have to listen to me and my Baptist friends tell them it was wrong and so was infant baptism. We had many bruising arguments between friends but always remained friends through high school and beyond until Trump came into the picture. I grew up very mixed up but certainly feared God each time I would stand in front of the candy counter just itching to pick up a candy bar (which I never did so glad I had that fear). But, fear in God is not the same as realizing God is a loving God which I now believe and because of that would not want to steal, hate others because of skin color, religion, status, etc. Now, much of what I believe in this Trump world has placed a barrier between old friends. It gets harder to even say “thoughts and prayers” “wave the flag” “Facebook posts” etc.

    I will continue later. Commitments are calling.


  2. I love this. I’m always amazed how much your words and journey describe my own in regards to faith. I’m grateful you take the time to share them with us because they are beautiful and they needed.

    • Thank you, Paula. Trust me when I say there is a lot of internal wrestling before I get anything written that makes sense. A lot of inner turmoil usually after something has triggered an emotional reaction I don’t quite understand and spend days obsessing about. This last week was one of those weeks.

    • Thanks, Tom. I’m trying to hold space for your words “we are risen indeed” I assume you mean you are and I am rather than a general Christian greeting.

      I don’t know that I’m risen indeed – I just know that through the processes that have broken down and decomposed my perspectives, I have experienced a transformation and live a more authentic life. I would say that I in the concept of a Christian Easter, I find a pattern that I can identify with. I am uncomfortable with claiming to be risen indeed.

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