Easter is everywhere. The decorations are all over my front porch. Paraphernalia is spilling out of the grocery aisles. Conversations are beginning with “What are you doing for Easter?” For me, I feel like I’m bracing myself for some Easter PTSD.
… (oooh, this post is going to be a hard one to write.)
Last year, at Easter, I was emotionally wrecked by the grief of our failed adoption. It’s a complicated story and I’ll spare you the details, but the short story is: the baby we were matched with, our son, was born on Good Friday. He was immediately put on life support. Saturday we were told “He’s getting better, but don’t come yet. For now your job is to PRAY, PRAY, PRAY.” And then on Sunday, “I’m sorry.”
The weekend was a timeline of emotional rollercoastering that felt like the inverse of the Easter story that I was supposed to be celebrating. I’m not proud to share that last Easter Sunday I spent the day angry at God, grieving my own almost-son, not celebrating the risen-Son.
“No, God! WHY!?? Don’t do this to me again (we had already lost a daughter the year before!!!) And then, my worst thought of all, “I don’t give a [expletive] about Jesus today!”
Over time, grief turned to surrender… and now, with prayerful hope, I’m getting closer to absorbing peace. But, if I’m honest, the approaching Easter has me fearing the opening of last year’s wound. As I anticipate the soon-coming Easter, it’s impossible for me to avoid the memory attached to it by my circumstances last year. And for the first time ever, my Easter mindfulness is turning my heart to someone besides Jesus. I’m meditating on the story of motherhood lived by someone else: Mary.
I recently read the words of another writer who was examining the women of the Easter story. She wrote: “As a mother myself, the most difficult for me to contemplate is Mary, Jesus’ mother. What must it have been like for her to see her child suffering this wickedly cruel death? Was she remembering how she had tried to be a good mother and keep him safe? How he had been lost in Jerusalem as a young boy, and how scared she was that he had been snatched away? Was she thinking about Simeon’s prophecy that her soul would be pierced by a sword one day? Was she agonizing over her helplessness, wanting to change places with her son, to die in his stead? Was she grieving as only a mother can grieve who survives her child?”
Being that kind of survivor is something I can empathize with. Unfortunately, it isn’t a stretch for me to contemplate Mary’s grief. The pain was searing. Yes, of course, she was remembering how she just wanted to be a good mother; how she just wished she could keep him safe forever, for always, no matter what. Yes, yes, ohhh… she was so afraid! She wished that the prophecy wasn’t true. She prayed that it was all a nightmare, a misunderstanding; surely God had another miracle in mind! The feeling of helplessness was the heaviest emotion she had ever felt. She surely asked God to take her instead, over and over again.
The hardest truth of Faith (and motherhood) that I’ve ever had to swallow is that our children are not our own. They are souls on loan, wearing borrowed bodies, intended to be redeemed to the One that created them. Mothers give life, but they don’t control it. Children are not our dreams fulfilled. Their unique mission isn’t by our design. Our primary goal is not to keep them safe, it’s to point their lives back to Him.
I’ve said that losing a child makes me feel like a piece of my heart is tethered to the infinite, the beyond. If Jesus is the perfect way that a Creator God intended for me to be redeemed, for the gap of death to close, then I’ll take it! I’m all in because Jesus is risen.
We cannot get there without hope. Hope is hard. It is grueling, heart-wrenching work. But it’s worth it because He is Risen!
To echo Nancy Guthrie in her book on faith, “When we face the grave as we all will, all this religious talk about resurrection becomes more than just talk… To paraphrase parts of 1 Corinthians 15 in The Message: If corpses can’t be raised, then Christ wasn’t because he was indeed dead. And if Christ weren’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave cemeteries. It’s resurrection, resurrection, always resurrection that undergirds what I do and say, the way I live.”
In Memory of Kevyn.