“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12
You never see the hard days in a photo album.
This Easter was unlike any other that I have experienced. On Good Friday, I attended an evening service at Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, NC (my new home state and home church) that brought me to an uncontrollable and emotional breaking point. I have never been more present or have experienced the Holy Spirit’s presence in such a way as was shared through the message and music of that evening. The tears continued to roll down my cheeks as I drove home in silence thinking about my Savior’s crucifixion on the cross that evening over 2,000 years ago. Was the overwhelming emotion because I imagined how alone He must have felt during those final hours? Was it because my heart was broken at the thought of His pain and those who loved Him and had watched Him suffer? (Thinking about the people who I love and are suffering)… Or was it because I felt guilty that He had endured so much for someone as unworthy as me. Whatever the cause, it’s irrelevant, and “thank you Jesus” were the only prayers I could repeat as my heart filled with gratitude for what He had done on my behalf.
I reflected on years past when Easter was not about Jesus, it was about a bunny. For nearly 21 years I did not attend a church, nor did I understand why Easter was even celebrated. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to know…I was just ignorant to the Truth. You see, like most families my parents would hide a fully stuffed and decorated Easter basket for my brother and I to look for on Easter morning, then later in the day my family would get together and we would eat a bunch of candy, feast over a big meal and fellowship with one another – joyously partaking in the celebration of _________________ (What??) (…a beautiful Spring day?…Sunday family time?…a yellow bunny that hides baskets and doesn’t actually exist?) Sure, I have great memories of Easter from years past, but were they really “Easter” memories or just “family” memories that happened to fall on Easter Sunday?
This Easter was quite different though. I moved to North Carolina knowing that things would be much different during the holidays and would not leave the same kind of “family” memories as my childhood remembers. But, I wouldn’t change any of it because I now celebrate the true meaning of the day.
When I called my mom after the morning church service, she reminded me of how different it is not having anyone to celebrate with anymore. To which I thought, are you more sad about being alone this year or not understanding the real reason for the holday? Truth is, if you don’t know WHY you are celebrating, it doesn’t matter how big your family is, or what traditions you have, there really is no point. But, I empathized with her because I, too, have a heart of sadness in the passage of time that has dramatically distorted the image of my family photo.
Death, divorce and drama throughout the years has not only left the few of us who are still here alone…but sad at the result of this present time. My mom stated, “I never saw my life like this.” …I was silent…knowing she was right. We never imagine our lives to change as much as they do and as quickly as it does. I see this beautiful and happy family 25 years ago (shown above) and don’t even recognize the photo anymore (shown below) – same picture in 1990, dramatically different reality in 2015:
You never see the hard days in a photo album.
It reminds me just how temporary this life truly is and how much of it is NOT in our control. So many things happen with the passage of time that, of course, we can’t possibly predict how things will turn out. But, there is one thing that remains unchanged and even outlasts the passage of time…and that is the hope we have in Jesus Christ.
I went for an afternoon walk by myself after Easter church service and clenched the cross around my neck thanking Jesus for the hope He has given me through His death and resurrection. Because, despite the pain and sadness of my past and even the loneliness that easily consumes me when I stray, Christ always manages to fill my heart with joy as I think about a future with Him. That is WHY I celebrate. That is why I continue to smile through the hard times. That is why I can accept the reality of my current family photo and still be grateful for my life as I celebrate Him. Because Jesus reminds me (especially on days that are meant for Him) that it’s not about ME! And the more I live that truth and meditate on that hope, the easier it is to surrender my past, accept my present and live a life that will glorify Him for my future!
I pray for you who have a similar story and struggle with your faith…because I have been there. I pray for you who are alone during the holidays and don’t feel the presence of God at your side…because I have been there. I pray for you who are going through hard times right now and don’t know the hope that a future with Christ holds…because I have been there.
And I want to encourage you beyond my own experiences because, it’s not about me. Christ has been there too….He overcame every obstacle that we will face in this life. He even overcame the scariest and most permanent obstacle of all….death. That is why we celebrate Easter! He overcame it and you can too! Time will continue to pass, our lives will continue to change quickly and dramatically, our family photos will look nothing like they used to, but one thing will remain the same, unchanged, always – and that is the hope we have in a life with Jesus when we use our life to glorify Him. And if He is all we are left with in the end, then He is all we really need.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” Lamentations 3:24
Prayers and love to you,