Easter is my favorite holiday.
At least, it used to be. Before Eve died. Now, I am not sure how I feel about Easter, because it is a holiday -- another milestone day to highlight the fact that our family is missing a member. That my heart is limping.
Eve's death provided me with an opportunity to test what my faith really means when it comes up against the devastation of real life. At first, as we waited for our daughter's body to be born, I couldn't feel God in the midst of all of the confusion and fear and pain, but I trusted that He was there. It was a tenuous, desperate trust, but it was trust all the same.
But that trust disappeared after we left the hospital without her. Those first days at home were terrible. God seemed silent, apathetic, or worse. C.S. Lewis describes my feelings in those early nights of grief better than I can:
"But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”
And after that, after hearing nothing and feeling so much pain, I tried to give up on Him. I didn't want anything to do with this God who let my daughter die and had nothing to say about it, or about anything. But that didn't work, because it was then, for the first time since Eve's death, that I began to feel Him pursuing me. Even though I hated Him, I couldn't deny Him.
But how could I ever trust Him again? How could I trust the God who could have saved my daughter, and didn't? I wasn't sure, not for weeks. But one night, as I lay in bed crying and praying, I realized -- God is a bereaved parent, too.
That realization transformed my world. God and I, we have something in common -- our first children died.
And not only did His son die, but He voluntarily gave up His son. His only son. Now, in the wake of my own daughter's death, I cannot fathom what such a decision must have cost. What it might still continue to cost.
God sent Jesus to a cruel, shameful fate -- willingly. Willingly, Jesus submitted to nails and whips and scorn and death. Death that altered Jesus permanently, that left His body scarred even after resurrection's life.
In the face of God's extreme, audacious willingness to let His son endure perhaps the worst end imaginable, how can I say no to Him? How can I not trust Him? How can I not believe everything that He has promised?
The cross, the cross -- how did I never understand it before? Not only is it the vehicle of our redemption, but it is the ultimate proof of God's trustworthiness.
It is why I still believe in God. The cross, really, is all that I have. Is all that any of us have. Without it, what else matters?
And with it? Everything matters, every breath, every person, every tear, every love, every color, every joy, every loss, every everything.
Today is Good Friday, the day when we remember Jesus' death for us. This is, perhaps, the first Easter season that I have truly understood what this holiday is actually about. What sacrifice, what cost, and what pain bought our lives. Bought my daughter the life she is enjoying at this very moment in Heaven.
“Suffering invites us to place our hurts in larger hands. In Christ we see God suffering – for us. And calling us to share in God’s suffering love for a hurting world. The small and even overpowering pains of our lives are intimately connected with the greater pains of Christ. Our daily sorrows are anchored in a greater sorrow and therefore a larger hope.”
~ Henri Nouwen, Turn My Mourning Into Dancing
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us."
~ 1 John 3:16