This year, I’m counting down to Easter.
At first the anticipation was rooted in my devoted quest to avoid dessert for 40 days. This lasted about two weeks until I gave into the Girl Scout cookies Jonathan left on the counter. I won’t blame the whole problem on him because I suppose I could have started new again, but, it just wasn’t working for me.
Then, the anticipation shifted towards something much more admirable: the perfect outfit.
When I was a little girl, Easter was marked by a new dress, a cute hat, clickity clack shiny shoes, and a big basket full of goodies. Rainy Easter Sundays of recent years, however, found me rummaging through my closet looking for something airy and pastel to wear, then finally settling on a nice skirt and a fine old sweater. This year, I wanted to make sure that Easter didn’t feel like any other Sunday. Maybe a new outfit would help?
On Friday night I put baby girl to bed, gave Jonathan a box of apple juice and the remote, and headed off to Target where I planned to spend the $30 gift card Lori gave me for my birthday. A whole uninterrupted hour of shopping yielded two dresses, both on sale. I was practically jumping up and down in the dressing room at my good fortune. I thought about Anna’s cute little Gap dress, Mary Jane’s and snazzy Etsy headband. This year, we were ready for Easter.
A few days after my Target spree, it was Palm Sunday. I struggled out the door for church, late, as has become the norm in recent months. Anna was in her heavy car seat over one arm, the diaper bag over the other. Jonathan was nauseous and struggling to get out of bed. I was feeling sorry for myself having to attend church alone, while subsequently feeling guilty because Jonathan was being kind and well mannered despite recovering from chemo. When I got to church, empty and tired, I gratefully found a seat next to Shane and Anna. Then I looked around and took in the morning.
Our church has a new location–an actual church building with pews and real stained glass windows–where the light streams in on Sunday mornings making it both unnecessary and impossible to dim the lights to create a “worship experience.” While I’m used to meeting in office buildings and gymnasiums, I love that our new church building is straight out of an episode of 7th Heaven. Everything about the space is different from our past location, including the need to climb over people’s laps if I need to use the restroom and the one window pane that doesn’t match with all the others.
I’ve thought a lot about that window pane, and today was no exception. I’ve wondered how it happened, and decided it was likely the result of a stray baseball many years ago when children were playing in the courtyard. At first, that window really bothered me. The bright red coloring stands out from all the other pastel panes like a wound needing attention. Someone was too lazy to repair it in the way it should be repaired, I thought. It seems so wrong for a beautiful building to not be treated with more reverence and respect.
But, there’s another side of me that really likes that bright red window pane. So many churches, and so many Christians, focus more on outward appearances rather than our hearts. We try to follow the rules, and dress things up, and do the good deeds–chasing a tidy and nice God, a feel good faith and a predictable life. We clean up the broken windows before the glass can hurt anyone else.
Yet our God didn’t hang on the cross so that we could be blessed with an easy life. He came because we are all hurting people who trudge in on average Sundays carrying burdens too heavy for our own frail backs. We bring in our addictions, and illness, and betrayal and worries about measuring up and making enough. We come tired and lonely, confused and convicted. We arrive feeling like everyone else is a beautiful piece of a pastel glass tapestry and we are the lone red window pane that doesn’t fit in with the rest.
Perhaps that’s why the crimson window pane doesn’t bother me like it did at a first glance. In one piece of mismatched glass I see myself, and I see the crimson blood of Jesus, who gave me the redemption I so desperately need.
I might be wearing a new dress this Sunday, but I’m reminded that the real Easter story is one of broken people and new life. Hallelujah, He has Risen!