As a church leader, I spend my time spanning two worlds: the church … and everywhere else. And, just like everywhere else, in the church, we have our own special way of doing everything … trust me on this. We have spoken and unspoken rules and lots of acronyms; we have judicial councils (AIYIYI) and legislative committees; we have church-specific teams, task forces, committees, and small groups. We speak a particular language where “we prayerfully consider;” “we discern;” “we invite people to share their gifts in places of service.” We even have certain ways of eating together, often in large masses with lots of “covered dishes” and “jello surprises” — and lots of “understandings” about the church kitchen. (by the way? if anyone has seen the whereabouts of some 70+ forks? please let me know. ummm … that’s not a joke.)
We also have a church liturgical calendar by which we journey through the year (see what I mean? In the church, we don’t just go day by day about our lives … we “journey” though the year together.) Yes, we have a church calendar that we follow that has been set for us centuries ago. Google it if you want to go down a very deeeeeepppppp rabbit hole. For example? While much of the “everywhere else” world I span is getting ready for May 4th (I’m seeking my “Rey” costume; she’s my alter-ego, for sure):
and Cinco de Mayo (margarita specials abound), according to the church calendar that I live in as well, we just completed Lent and we are firmly in the season of Easter.
During Lent, we spend our time pointedly focusing on the life and teaching of Jesus. We read, listen and learn from our rabbi-Christ, Jesus, in earnest. Our calendar, our work is set to focus on what little we have of him, so that we can we prepare for life without him. We read a lot from the Gospels of the New Testament; we study and breathe the life and times and teachings and preachings of Jesus. We spend time fasting and in deep prayer. During Lent, we draw ourselves as closely as we can to Jesus; to reflect on his life and death and how it impacts ours. And then?
TADA! It’s Easter Sunday. Christ is risen! We celebrate the resurrection of Christ with a lot pomp, music (usually that means LOUD BRASS), butterflies, flowers, pretty dresses, bunnies, and eggs (yes, the latter two stem from a Christian coup of pagan symbolism, I know, and personally? I think that the Easter Bunny is BEYOND creepy, but that’s just me).
So now, here we are. In Easter. Living the hi-life with post-Jesus.
But this year, this season, this Easter? The honest truth is that I’m having a hard time. I’m struggling, and it took me awhile to see it. It’s not like that much has changed. I mean, this is what we do, year after year. Lent – Holy Week – Easter! And year after year, I have dutifully followed and journeyed in and through these seasons. Each Lent, I have spent time with Jesus and his disciples; I have given up or taken on something. I have fasted and prayed; I have read; I have retreated in silence. I have led retreats; ash’ed folks; re-staged the Last Supper and Good Friday; joined my Jewish brothers and sister at Passover Seder at temple. I have reserved and welcomed a Donkey to campus on Palm Sunday. I have waved palms; I have distributed palms; I have burnt palms. Year after year.
But this year? This Easter? I find myself … a little lonely.
There, I said it. I’m lonely and I’m trying to figure out how to walk in this Easter season without Jesus. This Easter, I just can’t seem to get past Holy Saturday (the day after Jesus dies and before he is risen when no one knows WTF is going on). It’s like I’m stuck in the “in-between.” I can’t bear to walk to the tomb, and see it empty. I’m not in the resurrection just yet. I’m just here, waiting (stuck?) on Holy Saturday, because I can’t go on without Jesus. I want to just go back and read the Gospels some more and then some more again. I just want to sit at Jesus’ feet. I want to walk with Jesus, learn and listen.
I don’t want to walk in the unknown, carve out the path, forge ahead. I’m not ready to celebrate the resurrection. In fact, maybe I don’t even know what that means.
I just want to be around Jesus. The One.
- Maybe it’s because the UMC is crashing in on itself?
- Maybe it’s because I miss my mom who died in between Easter services six years ago.
- Maybe it’s because I’m entering into an even deeper space on my spiritual journey just having completed my yoga teacher training and read the Yoga Sutra.
- Maybe it’s all of this and more.
To some extent, it doesn’t matter why I’m lonely and missing Jesus. I just am. When I’ve prayed in my loneliness, when I’ve lifted myself to God, when I’ve asked for God’s loving hold upon my heart … I have felt a release, a freedom and a clarity.
What has come to me in this release is two things.
- One: love thyself in thy loneliness. It is natural, normal and understandable that Christians miss Jesus in Easter. That just because the BIG church states that it’s time to celebrate in a post-Jesus, Spirit-infused world … doesn’t and shouldn’t dictate one’s journey.
- Two: i’ve been missing Jesus for a long, long time. Those of us being the church and doing our messy best of living a life of discipleship together … have been missing Jesus for a long, long time. We have been so focused on Easter and Pentecost … life without Jesus … the CHURCH as an institution (what ever will we do if we don’t have the UMC???) … that we have often totally and utterly left Jesus back there … in Lent. Left him altogether. And done our own thing.
I’ve been reading the a Book of Acts; the one that we are supposed to read in Easter; the post-Jesus book. We read the Book of Acts so as to guide us all how to live and love without the Christ in our midst. And, what I’m reading there portrays a community in deep transition as it forms anew; a people who are lost and yet, together, hungering and thirsting for life; a people who trust that God and Jesus will lead us … relying one another and a life lived in faith together. It’s not a group of perfect people. It’s not a unified, got-it-all-together community. It’s a little messed up at times, confusing, lost … my guess is that the Apostles were a little lonely, too?
But then I read these chapters … and I am so deeply thankful for my brothers and sisters in the faith who have braved and endured this loneliness long before me.
32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35 They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. ~ Acts 4: 32-35
I’m thankful for the multitude of witness of the Holy in our midst — that we have inherited. I am grateful to the church who saved these sacred writings and protected them from generation to generation so we could have them now to guide us along the path.
That being said, I also have to share that I don’t have a pithy answer or hashtag for this. I don’t have wisdom to spout. I don’t have a 3-point sermon, an organizational flowchart, or a calendar full of exciting programs to join.
I’ve got me. And I’m lonely. The truth is, right now, in this time. I just miss Jesus.
Jesus: where’d you go?