Easter And The New Normal

 

church, easter, healing

 

My doctor and I agreed last week to begin stepping down my anti-depressant medication. The timing wasn’t great as Easter is still one of the most difficult holidays for me. Good Friday passed without me having to acknowledge it too much (other than the many Facebook posts I saw). But Saturday, Easter was in my face all day—from the shopping crowds around town to driving past an egg hunt to putting together baskets for my girls to making plans to attend church. And there it is: church. Just the thought of it causes a knot to form in my stomach.

We still don’t go to church. I don’t talk about it like I used to. It’s easier not to explain why we left and why we still don’t go. So when the subject of church comes up (and it always does in the South), I smile and nod my head and keep my mouth closed. The conversation is not worth the heartache it drags to the surface.

On Good Friday, a long-time friend messaged me to invite my family to church. He said there was no pressure and that he wanted me to know someone cared. And I believed him because I know some of his church history, and I know he has experienced similar church-related heartache. I’m grateful for his quiet, no-pressure invitation, and his church is where we’ll attend Easter service today. It’s the only church where I can relax and experience peace.

Easter 2013 was a turning point for me. It was the year I sat in my mega-church and wondered what regularly-unchurched Easter attenders must feel when they show up for over-the-top, produced and polished Easter services. It’s the year I wrote the blog post that began the drama that would unfold over the next few months, eventually becoming the reason I left church. It’s the Easter I remember every year because I know now what it feels like to be that unchurched, Easter attender.

There’s a grief that comes with walking away from everything you’ve ever known. There’s a sadness that shows up in life when you have to evaluate your belief system and realize you can’t hold those beliefs anymore. There’s an ache that grows and doesn’t easily disappear when you lose so much of what made you who you are.

Easter is about resurrection and restoration and new life and making all things new. While I’ve settled into a new normal, this whole church issue is still a tender spot nearly four years after leaving. I don’t know if there’s actually healing to be had, or if all the loss and death just eventually fade into the background. Either way, I’ve come to believe there are some things that don’t need to be resurrected or restored.

Last week, my youngest child asked me why we bother to go to church on Easter when we don’t go any other time. I told her I didn’t have a good answer. I go because I can’t imagine not going on Easter. I’ve never not gone to church on Easter. It has nothing to do with dressing up or experiencing some religious high. For me, it’s not even a celebration. That’s what church used to be about for me. Now, I want to slip in and slip out quietly. No fanfare. No hoopla. No smoke and moving stage lights.

 

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