Thursday, March 29, 2012

Letting Go:My Secular Upbringing

I am training/studying to be a pastor. In my home growing up we didn't go to church not even on Christmas or Easter, my mother felt it was hypocritical to only go two times a year so she didn't go at all. There is a theology paper in that somewhere. As we are in Lent and Easter is fast approaching and I heard people talking about when you have kids and you are a pastor you pray spring break for their school doesn't fall on Holy Week because you are so busy. It got me to thinking this Sunday while in church listening to the church's plans for Easter worship. For the rest of my life as long as I am serving in a church, I will have to be at church likely from sunrise until noon. My heart broke a little when I figured that out.

Here is how Easter morning went in our house. The night before we made careful preparations for the arrival of the Easter Bunny, who we had already gone to visit at the local mall. We would dye hard boiled eggs, my mother would make our bunny cake which usually ends up looking like a demon possessed Easter bunny made out of cake, for dessert after the Easter meal. My youngest brother and I would leave out one special hard boiled egg for the Easter bunny, our equivalent of cookies for Santa for Easter. In the morning we would wake up to find the Easter bunny had hidden our dyed eggs and plastic ones filled with candy, coins and little trinkets. There would also be baskets full of candy wrapped in colorful cellophane adorned with huge bows and hidden in there somewhere or on the table next to it would be some special toy. Then of course there were the left over egg shells from the egg the bunny had consumed, leaving behind the sheer proof that THE Easter Bunny had most certainly been there. We would eat hard boiled eggs and candy for breakfast. Then my mother would dress us up like we were going to church for Easter complete with a bonnet, gloves and a purse. From the pictures you would have thought we lived in the South or were very into church. Then we would take pictures and slowly our older siblings who had already moved out, our grandparents and various aunts, uncles and cousins would arrive as we ate snacks and then shared in a meal together. Then we would play outside or play games and just enjoy each others company. As a child I would get incredibly excited for days like that, I liked having everyone around and sharing a meal together. I loved all the Easter flowers, daffodils, tulips and my favorite hyacinths because they smell just fantastic. (I was never a fan of the lily.) There was no church but I knew the story of Easter, the Risen Christ. I once put the Romans on trial in my grandmother's back yard for killing Jesus, after she reminded me of the story.

In my head I guess I imagined this is exactly what my daughter's Easter Sunday's would be like just with church mixed in after the egg and candy breakfast. These mornings (Christmas mornings too) are some of the best memories from my childhood, I can remember that sheer childhood joy, I can remember on special days it didn't matter that so many people in the family were battling illness because we were together. It was a day where my mother always let me be a kid even if she dressed me like a doll. I always imagined that I would take over for my mom hosting the holidays, creating baskets and egg hunts for my own children and nieces and nephews. Not every Easter was at our house but most were. Sometimes we went to an aunt's house or my grandmother's house. I loved the ones at my own house the best because I was comfortable there, I was a painfully shy child.

So now I am left with these good and beautiful and decidedly secular memories and my call to serve God. I have moved away from all that family with whom I have so much shared history, which makes for better holidays remembering those past. My daughter will never know Easter, Christmas or Thanksgiving like I knew them and it breaks my heart. Now I live in a world where I am certain some of my neighbors cringe at the fact we still visit the Easter Bunny and that my dormpartment is covered in eggs and bunnies right now. That this celebration of the Risen Jesus which is what makes Christians, Christians is represented by bunnies, chicks, candy, eggs and various other things in my home. Maybe it cheapens it but I would say it's a powerful lesson of Spring and new life for children, they understand spring, they understand bunnies and eggs, understanding the resurrection is something I can just barely grasp on a good day and I am 31.

I have really struggled with putting a cross out for Easter this year. I have a banner which normally would go in the front window and I haven't done it. Partly because I am struggling with the cross as the symbol of our faith and partly because the cross empty seems to only fit once Easter arrives. It's a strange thing to have a cross adorned with flowers in your window on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday isn't it?

Today I am so very grateful for my memories of wonderful holidays.
May you be blessed with your memories or the making of new ones.

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