Rushing to Easter

I really want to be one of those people who just trusts God so much that I can greet every bad thing that happens, whether it be a small bump in the road or a full on ditch, with a calm, peaceful presence. But I’m not. I am the queen of the worst case scenario. I have missed my calling in the military. There are people there who specialize in the worst case scenario. Their negative thinking is an asset in helping our troops be prepared. I like to tell myself that that is what I am doing too…being prepared. But that’s a lie. I’m worrying. And my worrying is preparing me for nothing, except maybe a headache. If you want to know what your worst case scenario is, just ask…I can give it to you in less than a minute. Thankfully (or maybe not) I have learned to keep all of my doom and gloom to myself.

I have a constant tension of knowing that God is good (Psalm 119:68, Luke 18:19, Nahum 1:7) and really trusting him with the things that matter the most to me. It’s easy for me to trust him with things that I have no perceived control over (world hunger, North Korea, natural disasters, etc.). But the people that I love, and situations or endeavors that I am invested in, I often hold them too tightly and bathe them in worry instead of prayer.

This is the time of year that the Christian church remembers and looks towards Easter. Lent is not something that I have officially observed, but I have always admired those who do. The people who give up real things that come between them and God, like social media, or alcohol, or whatever that thing is for you. (I had a friend in college who gave up potato chips for lent but still ate french fries. I’m not sure that this is what the early Christians had in mind…)

Kind of like we have fouled up Christmas, by making it overly commercial and materialistic…I think we, the church, have fouled up Easter too. We are in such a hurry to get to the resurrection that we miss out on knowing God through the quiet march of lent. We miss out on knowing him through the mockery of a trial, the brutal flogging, the barbaric crucifixion, and the 36 hours of being in the grave. Kate Bowler, Author of Everything Happens for a Reason, and Other Lies I’ve Loved, recently said in an interview that “…we Easter the crap out of lent”. If all we know of Jesus is the resurrection and the resurrection moments in our own lives, we are missing out on so much of the character of God. We are missing out on the clarity, simplicity, and joy that comes from really dark places when we choose to invite God in to them.

For some of us, things won’t work out in this life. We won’t get the job, or be able to have the baby, or the diagnosis we were hoping for. And that’s precisely why we have the account of the days before Jesus’ death and resurrection. If the authors of the Bible left all of those brutal details out, we would have no model for how to walk through hard times. Jesus did it with grace and mercy…loving people along the way. And although the Bible doesn’t say it, I have to think that Jesus laughed a lot. In my experience, you have to find the humor in hard times, or the weight of it all is too much to bear.

God was there with Jesus through all of it. And that’s his promise to us too, that he won’t leave us. He never says this life will be easy. Actually he says the opposite. (John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble…”) I have lived long enough to know that the hard times are the ones that I am closest to God. The hospital waiting rooms, the late night searches on my computer to understand what the Dr said, the phone call from the scene of an accident, the checking account balance that won’t pay the bills…that’s where God is the most real to me. And there is no better example of how to walk with God in hard times than Jesus in the days leading up to his death. The rest of John 16:33 says, “take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Jesus did ask God for deliverance when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39), and I have done that many times myself. And when God said no, Jesus trusted him. When God says no to me, I mount a defense and complain. The worst case scenario happened to Jesus, and he quietly trusted God and kept loving the people around him. He knew the same thing about his heavenly father that I do. God is good, and he’ll never leave. Death wasn’t the end of Jesus’ painful, remarkable, beautiful story…and death is not our worst case scenario, not knowing God is.

Time Traveler

I turn 45 today. Normally the birthdays that mark a decade are the big ones, but this year I am feeling reflective and thankful at 45. Sometimes it’s helpful to look back at where we have been in our lives as it can help inform us of where we are going next. Kind of like how we drive a route to a destination and learn things about the route each time we drive it. You learn about the traffic patterns, construction, and potential detours that can save you from wasted time or potential disaster. And likewise, the detours that can open up a whole new world that was just a street over that you had been missing out on all along.

If time travel were a thing, I might like to go back and give myself a few tips. Not necessarily to change the course, but to be a better informed traveler through life.

To my 15 year old self… do not buy the lie that you have to beautiful to be loved. God gave you outward beauty and health for a little while, but I promise you, it will fade. And the people who are most concerned with the outside will be the first people to go when times get hard. Spend more time on being beautiful on the inside. Be relentlessly kind and caring. Learn how to make other people feel good about themselves. Read more. It is ok to question all of the things that you were raised to believe. This is a necessary part of making the faith your parents taught you become your own. But don’t lie about it. Don’t try to live a double life- doing all of the church things you feel like you should be doing AND living the way you want to with your friends. Own your actions, and their consequences.

To my 25 year old self… laugh more. Forgive yourself for the things you did as a teenager, God has and you need to as well. You married young, but you picked a good man. A really good man. Good job on that. Let go of the fairy tale ideas you have about marriage. Real life is better. You had kids young too. You can do this. They turn out to be pretty great people. Laugh with them more and teach them to laugh at themselves. Make them try lots of different foods while they are young, and you try them too. Don’t be afraid to be still and quiet…cultivate it as a habit. Read more. Not just books to your kids, but read things that make you laugh and cry and see God in new ways. Say no to things. When you stay home with your kids, people will think you have endless amounts of time, you don’t. Call it intuition or maybe it’s the Holy Spirit within you, but that small voice or feeling you get about people or situations- good or bad- listen to it. It’s right.

To my 35 year old self… listen to your body. Doctors will dismiss you and tell you that things you are feeling are normal, but they don’t live inside your skin. Learn to speak up for yourself in the doctor’s office, sooner rather than later.  Also, don’t stop doing the things you love. When you stop making pots, part of you dies inside. Contributing to the family income is important and helpful, but you do not have to deny who you are in pursuit of money. That is bad for your soul. Keep advocating for your kids, you are doing a good job there. They have issues and they need your voice to help them succeed in the public school system. Also, the church or should I say the people in church, will let you down. They will disappoint you because you hold them to a different standard. Don’t do that. They are just people, like you, who will mess up and do hurtful things. Don’t hold that against God. And don’t let it keep you from getting involved. You have things to offer. Your words will help people feel not alone. They will help people feel loved and understood and heard. All of those journals you have been writing in since college are a training ground for you. Hard times are ahead of you and writing will help you sort all of your stuff out with God. You are stronger than you think you are. Keep writing.


Me at 45