Visiting Graves on Easter

In Hope & Healing
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As fellow Hope and Healing participants, I know you get it. “It” being the daily tension of living between the “already” of Jesus’ first coming and the “not yet” of Jesus’ return. And for me, the tension really hits home during the Lenten season. The 40 days leading up to Easter are painful, and I honestly don’t like Easter very much. It feels shameful to say, but it’s true.

Four years ago, my firstborn’s life was marked by the Lenten season. David was born a week after Ash Wednesday, and he died two weeks after Easter. On Ash Wednesday that year, I ashed fellow believers and proclaimed over them, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). I was literally pregnant with hope and anticipation while simultaneously declaring in word and deed that apart from Jesus, we are all dead in our sins. Easter 2018 fell on April Fool’s, and as I sat in the NICU with David, I pondered the absurdity of the day. We serve a God who died and rose again. He is alive! And, my infant son was dying.

Death and life. Life and death. The line between the two is so thin, and it’s in that fragile and vulnerable place that we are called to abide with Christ. I take great comfort in knowing that my Savior is a man of sorrows and himself knows pain, loss, and unimaginable suffering. He gets me, and he gets you. He knows the heartache you carry, the wounds you bear, the labels stuck to you, and the weariness of living in a broken world where things are not as they should be.

I have immense hope because Jesus died to reconcile us to the Father and to make all things new. Because of Jesus’s dying and rising, we know that everything Jesus proclaimed is true and will come to fruition, all of it. We can count on the promise of eternal life, the defeat of death, the absence of tears, and the resurrection of the body. That is the future we look forward to.

But before we can proclaim, “He is risen!” we must first proclaim, “He has died.” Full stop. He has died. In our rush to proclaim the joy of our risen Savior, sometimes we paper over the weight of sin and death in our own lives and in the lives of others. And the problem with skipping to forced laughter is that tears aren’t given a chance to spill.

Ever since the introduction of sin and brokenness in the Garden, sorrow and joy have coexisted. And in our respective journeys toward hope and healing, we too will experience both joy and sorrow, often simultaneously. We regret missed opportunities while rejoicing in new ones. We mourn a former relationship while moving forward in another. We give thanks for our bodies while lamenting the effects of aging. To both rejoice and mourn, laugh and cry, seems to mark the human experience.

Sometimes you enjoy an Easter complete with a sunrise service, plastic eggs, and ham-induced comas, and sometimes you visit graves on Easter. This year, I will do both. And as I sit at David’s grave I will both grieve and give thanks that one day, this small grave will be empty. It’s just not yet.

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