As a Christian, Easter is obviously a big deal. I love Easter. This year, the three church services I attended really reinforced the message of Easter, including what it takes to believe in the resurrection and what we gain from believing.
Last night, at 11pm, I attended the Easter vigil. This was an intimate service, telling the story of the resurrection and focusing on what it is that prompts us to believe - is seeing believing? Mary Magdalene wept when she discovered the empty tomb, but when she saw Jesus, she believed, and went and told the good news. But was it because she saw Jesus that she believed...? Or is there something more or different to why we believe as Christians. There had to be more for Mary because when Jesus told her that he was returning to the Father, that was something beyond comprehension and certainly beyond her ability to see, yet she believed. At the end of the vigil, just after midnight, we went outside, singing, and greeted Easter with cries of "He is risen!" In the cold and dark, it was such a wonderful contrast to welcome the joy of our salvation.
This morning, I was back at church at 7am for the sunrise service offered by the youth. It was touching how much effort they put into the service, and encouraging to see so many young people who love God so much. The message was about the amazing grace God offers us in salvation, and touched on the story of John Newton, the slave ship captain who wrote the famous hymn after he experienced God's grace in forgiving the sins he had committed against humanity. It also incorporated a video about a father who has to sacrifice his own son's life to save the people on a train headed for death, which ultimately results in joy for the passengers and for the grieving father. Hearing the high school girl who delivered the message speak about God's love and sacrifice and the grace that all people can receive through Jesus was a very sweet way to begin to celebrate Easter this morning.
Finally, I headed back to church one last time, for my regular contemporary service at 11am. Although the lead singer is currently taking a break from leading us in worship, which means the music is not quite as strong or powerful as usual, nevertheless, it is in the songs that I am able to experience the most complete joy. It is impossible not to leave filled with joy and hope and gratitude after singing out that Jesus has conquered death and redeemed us.
As I drove home, I was also thinking about the love and gratitude I will always feel towards my college boyfriend because he is the person who ultimately helped lead me to Christ. Other friends played a role in readying my heart, but he was the one who helped me fully open my heart to the holy spirit. We had never had a real conversation about religion, but one day he casually suggested that I read the Bible while he studied, and for some reason I accepted the Bible he offered me.
As I read the Bible, at first just to make him happy, I was gradually overwhelmed by the knowledge that I believed. It terrified me, but I actually believed what I was reading. It wasn't because I could see God or had experienced any definable miracle, and it wasn't because I was persuaded that there was a particular historical accuracy or logical reason to accept what I was reading. It just was. I just believed. And I couldn't deny the power of God and the awe I felt at God sending his son to die for my sins and give me new life. As I explored what that meant and how I could allow my salvation to transform me, I experienced joy and peace and hope in a way I had previously never imagined. I have been horribly unhappy at times in the decade since, but I have never been without hope and joy, because God's grace and love are endless and my eternal life was bought by Jesus long ago.
When you are in a relationship, or shortly after it ends, you think that person will always be a part of your life, or you will always remember them, or be affected by the time spent with them. After three longterm relationships, and various other relationships, I don't generally think that is true. You learn from each relationship and who you are is shaped by everyone who passes through your life...but you forget the actual people as they fade from your memory.
For four-and-a-half years, my college boyfriend was my best friend in the world (and it was the same with the other two serious relationships). We were together all day every day or spoke on the phone at length when we were apart. No experience or thought was complete until we shared it with each other. We loved each other's company, we respected each other's opinions, and we thought our bond was so strong it would never be broken even if we broke up. Now, it is like I never knew him. We are occasionally in touch, but it is like he is someone I once knew, not even like he is a real person. I don't miss anything about him. And I have no anger or sadness or any emotions towards him. It just gradually faded away until it was like our relationship never happened. Who I am was shaped in great part by the time I spent with him, but today, he could have been anyone. My experience has been the same with each other relationship, that they gradually fade away until the individuals cease to exist. Every relationship has taught me things, but where and how I learned what I know and became who I am is not tied to any specific person in my consciousness. But my faith will always be tied to him, and for that I will always love him. So this is me wishing him a happy Easter and saying thank you.