When I was a child, I looked forward to Easter because it meant I would get a new dress, a pair of pretty Mary Jane shoes and a cute hat. My brother would be outfitted in new slacks, shoes, shirt and tie, and Mom and Dad would take a picture before we headed off to church. I’d like to say Sunday service was the most meaningful part of our day, but I was eager to get the obligatory time-served over so we could come home for the Easter egg hunt. We kids dyed the eggs in varying pastels and parents hid them (along with a few fancy tinfoil wrapped chocolate bunny rabbits) in flower beds and bushes around the house. That hunt was the highlight of my childhood Easter.
When I was a child, I thought like a child, behaved like a child and gave myself over to childish ways. My parents demonstrated their faith by church attendance and service and prayers before dinner, but I don’t remember either of them studying the Bible. I don’t remember them carrying a Bible to church. Though we attended a main-line denominational church, it didn’t stock Bibles in the pews, just hymnals. At twelve, I went through a ceremony and received an NIV Bible which I took to church camp where we were encouraged to have a quiet time with the Lord. I’d go down to the creek, place the Bible on my lap and wait for God to blow it open and turn the pages and enlighten me. When that didn’t happen, I shrugged, put it back in the cabin and went to the pool.
I was a heathen — no joke – a pagan who worshipped the idol of self, the god of fun and pleasure, the American religion of hard work getting you what you want and where you want to be. I had heard warnings about consequences all my life, but somehow didn’t think those things applied to me.
The old saying, “You can lead a horse (mule) to water, but you can’t make him/her drink” is sadly true. Mom and Dad led by example, but I missed the message. I thought since they were Christians; hence, I was, too. For years, I thought you were born into the faith and then did as you pleased. I saw enough of that in church. When I headed off to college at UN-Reno, I made my theme songs Sammy Davis, Jr.’s “I Gotta Be Me” and Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way”. I mucked my way through the mire of self, adding sin upon sin, regret upon regret. Pain is the best teacher.
By the grace of God, I married the right man who brought his own troubled soul into the mix which turned out to be a blessing because we both ended up on our knees before God asking forgiveness and being made new in Christ. It took years to get us there, but God did all the work and we’ve been thanking and praising Him ever since. My theme songs these days are “Amazing Grace” and “Be Thou My Vision”.
Easter is a time to celebrate the new life Jesus offers through His resurrection. That was the point of the new clothing Mom and Dad made sure my brother and I had each spring. I get it now. We all walk on this planet, sinners facing judgment and death. There is a chasm filled with the fires of hell and damnation, a place we all deserve to end up because of our sins. On the other side is God and heaven, the place we yearn to be. We haven’t the power to leap across, nor build a bridge of good works strong enough to support us before a holy, righteous God. That’s why God sent His son. Jesus took our sins upon Himself and died on the cross to pay our ransom. He made the bridge with His own body and we cross it by faith to the Father who made us, the God who walks in the Garden.
Come! Let us celebrate the Lord! Let us praise His Name forever! Hallelujah!