Friday, April 14, 2017

From Death to Life- My Easter Story

This is my favorite week of the year.  Liturgically,  it is known as Holy Week.  It all begins with Palm Sunday and ends with Resurrection Sunday, what we all call Easter.  Even as a girl, Easter was the biggest holy-day of the calendar year. New dress and shoes and tights.  Egg hunts.  Church breakfast after sunrise service. And while most Sundays I was just distracting myself with coloring or my imagination during the sermon, Easter was the one week that I paid attention. It was the week the pastor brought the message of Jesus in a big way.  I would tingle with excitement over his words.

I grew up and I rejected God, though.  I still believed in him,  I probably even went to Easter service and felt some stirrings inside, but I was not a follower of Jesus. In February of 1999, though, my brother started bugging me to go to church with him.  "This place is different," he said.  He bothered me enough that I finally agreed to get out of bed one Sunday morning and go.

Walking into that church, which didn't look like a church, I immediately knew something was different.  It wasn't just the informality of dress, or the lack of pews.  I sensed that people wanted to be there. When the worship music began, to a full band, it was easy to join in and sing- and sing, they did. They raised their hands in worship.  It seemed to me an alternate universe compared to the churches I had grown up in- and yet, it was also familiar. I remembered how to find books in my Bible. I had heard some of these songs here and there. I had heard the Bible passage many times. The strangest thing was this:

A young man I had grown up going to church with was passing by and my brother stopped him. This kid, he and his brothers had gone wild and crazy in high school. They had gotten into drugs and had a punk band. I had heard the rumors.  All three of these guys were in church.  My brother asked this youngest one, "Have you decided if you're joining the army or not?" And his reply? " I don't know, man. Whatever the Lord wants. Whatever the Lord wants."

This blew me away.  Left me speechless.  I had never heard anyone talk this way, let alone an eighteen year old.  Whatever the Lord wants?  What is that?! What about what you want?

The teaching from the Bible was different, too.  The pastor taught with power and excitement. I could tell he knew his stuff and I liked that.  What he said was interesting. And I was compelled to come back to this alternate church universe. I went again that night. And from then on, I kept going Sunday morning and Sunday night. I sometimes went by myself.  Each time, I was getting more and more convinced in my heart that I needed Jesus. And I really, really wanted him, too.  There was this incredible balance of conviction of my sin, but also the depth of God's love for me. That Easter Sunday, April 4th, 1999, I left the service having made my final decision. I was following Jesus. No turning back.

Perhaps that's why, still, this time of year means so much to me.  I look back over my life and see the Lord's fingerprints in so many ways. He was drawing me to himself, luring me, wooing me, stirring in my empty heart and making me long for him.  I tried to fulfill that longing in so many other ways, but when I found the real Lover of my Soul, I was all in.  Not that I didn't fail and mess up and still look back over my shoulder now and then, but he always gave me the power to turn back around and follow him.  My life today is what it is because of Jesus. Plain and simple.

This time of year, especially in Maine, we start to see the dead things around us come alive. Spring is so glorious and so appreciated after the long, cold winter.  I love that Easter happens at this time of year.  Because that is what Easter is all about- the dead being raised to life!  First, Jesus was crucified and died.  But then on the third day, he rose from the grave.  And because of that, he can bring us who are spiritually dead to life!  I have experienced this first-hand and when I go back to those months when I was falling in love with Jesus and to that Easter Sunday when I decided to wholeheartedly follow him, I truly can weep.  Not out of lingering shame or sadness, but out of incredible, awe-filled joy.  He loved me as I was.  He was wooing me my whole life. He never gave up on me even when I rejected him. And when I finally responded, his arms were wide open.  That is love like I had never known.

I turned eighteen this year.  So spiritually speaking, I'm an adult now?  Laughable.  I have not forgotten what it was like to be "reborn".  This is a song I love, one that takes me back and reminds me of how I came alive eighteen years ago as a twenty-year-old.

What was I waiting for?
I came alive when I let go.
All I had was a broken heart,
then he held me in his arms.

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