When it is Easter, but there is no resurrection

Today it is Easter. The day of the year when the people dress up in florals and fineness and take pictures after church, even if they do not typically show up to church. Because today is the day when they go to such places and sit through the singing of hymns and the sanctimony of a service for the sake of being part of something greater than themselves. Today is the day when church is a tradition—though perhaps not their tradition—and they keep it because they do or they did or they think that they should.

After the fineness, they laugh on the steps or drink coffee in the hallway, then retire to someone’s backyard to sip mimosas and beer as they nibble on artisan cheese and gluten-free crackers while the meal is prepared and the children rush about with clean wicker baskets in quest for plastic eggs filled with candy and coins.

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At least this is what I imagine must happen on Easter for people who have people and who know they belong, here in San Francisco where Sunday is sunny and fresh, and there are more bowties and brunches than anyone could possibly need. This is what I imagine must happen for people who have families and friends and furnished apartments, vintage dresses, stainless steel, and a sustainable sense of enoughness. People who do not get stuck in their 20s and that state of “I thought life would be different,” “Will I ever arrive?” “Will they all find me out?”

I know fewer and fewer of those people with questions and more and more of the ones with the cheese plates and bowties and #ChildrenofInstagram. Most often, I wish I could be them. I aspire to carry out a hashtag-worthy life with puppies and heels and avocados to boot.

But they are not me and I am not them. I am constantly trying, but never quite there.

This morning I did not wake to coffee and pastries and Handel’s Messiah. There was no rush for the bathroom or asking anyone else which shoes I should wear or whether or not I needed a jacket. This morning I woke up to silence, to the dream-turned-reality that happens each day, which made me think hard on the choices I’d made the night prior, and the empty I felt as I woke up alone. Again.

I hauled it to church, where I sat among friends dressed in ribbons and bows, and soberly realized that it didn’t make a difference. That Easter didn’t make a difference. Not this year. Not for me.

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Maybe I didn’t properly recognize Lent. Maybe I celebrated too soon or just never held back in the first place, but this Easter I woke and found hope still dead in the grave. I found it difficult to care about (much less believe in) the promise of a resurrection that I fail to see in my day-to-day life.

The message of second chances and new beginnings and being surprised by joy, which has so often seemed utterly essential to my spirit, fell on deaf ears that have heard the same scriptures one time too many. Which is really too bad, because I honestly think we could all use some more hope.

I thought of Easters past—from the one just last spring when I was joining my new small group for a special service at the opera house, to the one two years back when my parents were meeting the last man I fell in love with, to the one that I spent on the outskirts of Paris, during which I sang and cried and smiled through the service, then went home to an empty house and a luncheon for one.

Easter always comes with a promise, but some years I just don’t have the heart to believe it.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been disappointed too often. Maybe it’s because my desires are too specific. Maybe it’s because I’ve come so close to getting what I think that I want—to be loved and known and seen by another person, the space to explore what it means to be gracious, the opportunity to make right what I know has been wrong.

Maybe if that had not come so near to being realized, I could still have the hope that someday it would happen.

I have watched friends hope and pray for apartments and partners and promotions and babies. I have seen them get what they want and more besides. I have seen the gifting of a blessing so specific and timely that something more than kismet most certainly must have been involved.

And then I have seen me, often (but always) having just enough to make it from one month to the next with a couple of extravagant comforts besides. I have made ends meet through leftovers and hand-me-downs and then celebrated what I refer to as “provisional luxuries”—a free bottle of champagne that I shared with a stressed-out colleague, a media dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant, a weeklong press trip just after a break up—but those things seem petty compared to what I really long for, which is the anchor and assurance that I do not need to face life alone.

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The reasons that I desire such things make as much sense to me as the reasons why I don’t have them, which is to say, none at all. It would be easier, I think, if I wanted to be my own pilot, if life felt like something to stockpile rather than share. But that’s not how I’m wired. I was made for connection.

So Easter as a concept can be as confusing as it is helpful. The promise of new life is something I want to sow into fields that I’ve willingly ravaged, or try forcing onto people whose posture towards me is indifferent at best. Sometimes I wonder if this plight is my own doing, if I just try too hard in all the wrong places.

I can dwell on those judgements for quite a long time. But then eventually I grow suspicious.

I think I know that in time I’ll come back to the cross or the grave or some hard piece of concrete and this message of redemption that I cannot fully grasp but also cannot deny, because I just can’t live without a promise of salvation. I can’t really believe that we’re left to despair.

But today, on this Easter, I am not on the ground at the end of myself, and I am not in a place of hopeful expectation. I am suspicious of the promise that life might surprise me, that there is a God who can and will do more than I ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20), which is also to say that I have a hard time believing that “more than I ask or imagine” is really even possible, because I can ask for and imagine the most beautiful wonderful, soul-wrenching bliss and insatiable satisfaction that it brings me to tears when I exit those daydreams.

I’d like to think that someone else can imagine this too. Someone who might not blend in with the bowties and brunches. Someone who could walk into Easter and sulk alongside me, because he knows that real redemption comes at a cost.

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