I could understand her desire to get outside. I mean, she had been cooped up for the past two-plus days–the latest casualty in a seemingly endless carousel of illness that has racked our family for the entire month of March.
My middle daughter, Liberty, wasn’t interested in the outdoor games I had suggested, but her eyes lit up when I simply asked, “How about we just go for a walk?”
Hand-in-hand we strolled through our neighborhood on a chilly Easter afternoon, weaving in and out of various crisscrossed streets we hadn’t walked before. And as we walked, we talked.
The day before, she had missed the biggest Easter egg hunt I’d ever seen–one that was quite possibly the largest in America. There were parachuting rabbit skydivers, costumed mascot dance parties, half a dozen giant inflatables, and–oh yeah–hordes of kids going after a staggering 105,000 plastic eggs at a park in Meridian, Idaho.
Liberty had been looking forward to it, yet the stupid flu bug, or whatever it was, kept her bedridden, next to her mama, who wasn’t doing much better.
“I wish I’d been able to go to the Easter egg hunt,” she said as we meandered down the sidewalk.
“I know, sweetie. I’m so sorry. We’ll get you there next year,” I said, immediately aware that Captain Obvious moment wouldn’t help things.
“But that’s like 250 days away, Dad!” she said, which in Liberty Standard Time has to be on par with like 15 years. It might as well have been. “I just wish I could’ve done an egg hunt.”
“Wouldn’t it be cool if we just found an egg now?” I said to her nonchalantly. And then, in a beat of silence, those words bounced right back to me in my mind. It really would be something, I thought. And I started to pray in that direction.
“I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel like Easter this year,” my mother-in-law said to me a few days ago. I agreed. And I don’t know exactly what makes Easter “feel like Easter,” but something felt off. It didn’t take long in my own personal inventory to figure out why that could be the case.
I pretty much skipped Lent this year, or just about anything intentionally and/or sacrificially preparing myself in this season. My church did a pretty stellar job putting on the most thoughtful, artful and meaningful Holy Week events I’ve ever experienced with a Thursday seder and a participatory Stations of the Cross. But still, it was like I let other people do the work for me.
I can blame a month weighted down by sick family members and a massive project at work. I can blame being in a new city and a new state and not knowing that many people at my new church. I can blame Easter being pretty early this year and getting a jump on me.
Sure, I can blame. But the truth is, I just wasn’t ready.
But it hit me this morning as I was in church, sitting in the back of the auditorium between services: Easter came anyway. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t prepared in my heart. But here we were. His grace, His forgiveness and His love came, even though we were yet sinners. Even though we weren’t “ready” for it. It came, like Easter this year. I wasn’t ready, and yet I was swept up in a beautiful expression of a grateful church singing as one.
I love the attention to detail in the midst of the most miraculous, triumphant, glorious event in human history.
When they’d been told Jesus’ body vanished from the sealed tomb, two disciples went to check it out, and “[Peter] also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings.” – John 20:6-7
Did you catch that? In the midst of conquering death, hell and the grave, Jesus took a moment to tidy for a second.
In his book, The Carpenter’s Cloth, Sigmund Brouwer wrote: “During Jesus’ time there was one way a carpenter let the contractor know a job was finished–A signature, so to speak.” It was to place on the finished work a towel twice folded neatly in half. Contractors would see the towel and get the message loud and clear: the work is complete.
That’s what I love about my Jesus. I serve a God who says everything matters. Even details. Even the bits of life we think are less important than others carry divine weight and purpose. In His economy, if something matters, everything matters.
As we rounded another bend, Liberty and I saw a neighborhood park we’d never visited, and as we walked towards it, I remembered there had been an Easter egg hunt there the day before, but we hadn’t gone because we were on our way to the massive one in Meridian.
My praying intensified, “Lord, please, let Liberty find an egg.” My thoughts immediately recalled how the Boise area’s children gave their best zombie apocalypse impression by swarming on the thousands of eggs in a field, clearing the ground of anything but grass in mere seconds. And then, a couple of hours later, the same thing happened at the Easter egg hunt at our church.
Kids don’t miss eggs, I thought to myself, although I kept praying (despite feeling increasingly silly for doing so).
We played on the playground for a minute or two, and then I said to Liberty, “Let’s go look for an Easter egg.” She smiled and agreed, and my prayer life intensified as the thought of her being let down again was something I wanted to avoid.
And then we found this pine tree. Only about 20 feet tall, it had wide but sparse branches and a clear path to the trunk. As we ambled towards it, and then past it, something shiny and blue caught our eye.
I. Was. Astounded.
And it wasn’t because the kids of the neighborhood managed to miss one solitary plastic egg, miraculous as it was. It wasn’t because of the paltry trinkets inside (a sticker, two jelly beans and an orange Starburst).
It was seeing God love on my daughter.
You would’ve thought she found ALL the eggs in the Easter egg hunt that day, the way she was shocked at her find. And it certainly wasn’t lost on her that this was God’s little love note to her–one of those details, like the folding of a burial cloth. I was overcome, and rare tears filled my eyes.
And on this Easter afternoon, I was reminded of the most amazing thing about Jesus. Regardless of our readiness, or our worthiness or excuses or busyness, His redemption floods in, just the same–for all, yes–but more importantly, for you. For me. For Liberty. It’s personal.
His love is active and heat-seeking and passionate and full of exclamation points. And when I really think about it, it breaks my heart. It overwhelms me to be loved so fully and massively–in vivid, personal details that He knows our hearts can understand.
Our sins are forgiven, yes! And we who have said “yes” to Jesus no longer are slaves to fear, shame and the grave, but that’s just the beginning! This Easter kind of love also is expressed in God’s loving shouts in big moments of life like moving and marriage and big, grand callings, as well as the tender whispers in the little things like parking spaces, sunsets and yes, even a forgotten plastic egg in a neighborhood park.
Liberty treats her little blue egg like a priceless artifact now, aware of its ebenezer status as a physical reminder that God loves her and cares about the details of her life. And she knows that’s far sweeter than all the candy in 105,000 plastic eggs.
As for me… it definitely feels like Easter now.