Holy Week has been difficult for me since I was in 5th grade. I think it is a blessing sometimes that I am a pastor so I am made so busy I don’t have to reflect or think about why it is difficult. The Easter sermon is the hardest thing to write each year- these last couple of years I know they are good but just like any typical one. So I am writing this hoping I can finally get my writer’s block of Easter finally done with. Also I want to be clear I am not looking for pity but putting this out there so that also people who sometimes feel like they are perpetually stuck in Good Friday in their lives to know this too shall pass. Also so people who are in abusive relationships know there is life after.
Well as a person who is about being authentic and real…probably sometimes to honest for my own good…I can actually be really closed off (just ask my husband) and especially about why when Easter happens I just can’t get out of Good Friday. And in the words of the amazing Brené Brown, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it…Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” So time to get vulnerable and explore my darkness with this.
As a child I loved Easter. It was this joyous day where at the Presbyterian Church I grew up in they had this huge “chicken coop cross” outside that people could cover in flowers. I loved wearing my beautiful dress and singing loudly for Christ. And of course my Easter baskets were amazing and the egg hunts. That changed though in fifth grade for me when I was 11.
My dad left the first time in February that year. It was honestly a relief to me at 11, because my parents were so unhappily married and to be honest he had become emotionally abusive to my mom. But Easter March 30, 1997 was the day he came back after leaving that first time. And it was scary and complicated for me to even understand. I was so angry my mom took him back, and I felt so guilty for wanting him to be gone and not come back. I loved my dad so much as a child, he was fun and smart, he was caring and supportive, but things started to change a few years before. And he was never really kind to my mom but very condescending, even in front of me.
You see my father was the consummate sales man and could get anyone to believe anything- especially my wonderful mother who loved him so much. However, every night I saw my mom walking on eggshells trying to make him happy. Dinners consisted of mom cooking them and then me (again a child) having to sit and listen to my dad pontificate about his day. Rarely was I even asked first about school- it was all about him and a minute or 2 left for my mom and me. After major counseling I can call my dad what he was (and is) a narcissist, compulsive liar, who lives a secret life, and is a crook. He hid all that as much as he could from my mom and I for years. Anyway he came back that Holy Week and mom let him back in.
I was so mad. It was back to the shit and abuse again. I mean he was on his best behavior for the next year (or at least hid things) but I remember sitting in the living room looking outside as a wind storm began that weekend. And I checked news archives, there was actually a windstorm that Saturday and Sunday where I grew up. The clouds were thick dark gray being whipped quickly across the sky by the wind. The wind blew the gigantic Douglas Firs in our neighbors yard across the street, so they looked like they were waving at me. Those skies though were dark. And it was Easter Sunday. I asked my mom recently if we went to church that Easter, and she said yes and my dad was with us. And all I can remember is the dark storm and the emptiness and loneliness I felt. Knowing that life was not going to get any better. Knowing that mom was still going to be living a lie with dad. Knowing that my mom and I were going to be pawns of his and have to live the lie of the “perfect family.” I at 11 was living in that empty tomb. I don’t even like today talking about the empty tomb, because it gives me feelings of being stuck in it. You see I actually like Good Friday, because I am allowed to be raw that day…I can just be sad like everyone else around me. It is Easter that is difficult, because I see that storm. God, it totally reminds me of the story and movie as a child that scared me to death by Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes. And yeah it was my father coming back to town…looking all good and great but inside rotten to the core…and bringing his circus of deceit with him (if you know the story you might get that reference). Seriously, I have had dreams since that day with my dad standing outside in that story as the shadowy character. Yup creepy.
So when I get up on Easter morning and celebrate I am actually not lying but clinging to the promise that God actually rose from the dead. It is a day that forces me to face my pain and truth and literally pushes me into Christ…even if I would rather still wallow in pain (I am an enneagram 4 so trust me I love to cling to pain, because it my head that means more creativity/artistry- yes that is totally unhealthy and I am working on it).
I just would rather with Easter sit and sob in relief—have a cathartic moment—and just be real and raw than shout loudly. Relief that my mom finally (even after losing everything) left him and is actually with an amazing man I hope I can have my children call grandpa. Relief that I don’t have to have a relationship with my dad anymore, but still pray for him (some relationships are so toxic and abusive people need to be apart and just pray for them). Relief that I am so blessed with a wonderful husband and great examples of men who actually care and are healthy. Relief that even if I can’t reconcile in this world Jesus can and has done that for me. Relief that that chapter is finally over and I can move on.
So sometimes I feel like I am stuck at Golgotha or can’t leave the tomb, but thank God Holy Week pushes Easter on me regardless if I like it to or not it is coming. I am clinging to the promise that God really is alive and that death and suffering and the devil have been defeated. It is so emotional for me, so much that my mom calls to check on me, my husband tries to keep me busy, and (thank God) this year my friends nearby who know the truth (it took a lot for me to share) make sure my hubby and I have a place to go for Easter dinner that day to just have fun (and wine). So yes the tomb is empty—but don’t stay in it but get out into that garden and see the new life. Oh and I get a TON of flowers for my apartment on Easter to remind me of new life, since I loved the flowers on Easter every year when I was a kid. That and chocolate.