It’s Our Second Pandemic Easter, And Jesus Still Lives
Last year, my husband and I celebrated Easter together at home, like millions of others. On Sunday, April 12th, we livestreamed our church service, I put on a pretty dress, and we ate dinner together; an exciting feat for me, since I was just beginning to emerge from the haze of morning sickness.
At 16 weeks pregnant, I still had almost no baby bump. Despite my anxiety about gaining pregnancy weight, I perversely felt frustrated at this. I wanted to see some physical evidence of the tiny little person growing inside me. On a holiday celebrating the most joyous event of the Christian faith, commemorated across the globe by thousands upon thousands, I was eager to celebrate a smaller miracle, important to just a few.
Weeks into a pandemic that was spreading disease and heartbreak across the globe, I was thirsting for something happy.
I didn’t get the cute here’s-our-precious-baby-on-the-way picture I wanted that day, but I cut my husband’s hair at home for the first time. We photographed that accomplishment instead, side by side, smiling hopefully into my phone’s front-facing camera. Looking ahead with excitement and trepidation, we were thrilled to anticipate first-time parenthood and somewhat terrified about what all that — and the worldwide disaster we were living through — would bring.
A few weeks later, I wrote one of my first personal think pieces.
What Kind of World is My Baby Going to Enter?
Pregnancy during a pandemic — and looking into a spinning unknown for the future — is not what I would have chosen.
Today, my baby is six months old. The fears and wonderings I felt last spring when I couldn’t even sense him moving yet are no longer foremost in my mind. I’d like to say they’re all gone, but the reality is that they’ve been replaced with others.
We are marking Easter Sunday at home. Again.
A year has come and gone, and the same disease is still infecting people. Vulnerable people, innocent people. People who have been selfishly reckless and people who have had no choice but to take risks. Rich and poor, young and old — the coronavirus doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints.
I’m sad and tired of it all.
I pray for peace and often feel only frustration and anger and weeping.
In many ways everything feels drearily, hopelessly the same as last year. And in other ways, it’s all different.
This time last year we knew so little compared to what we know now. (I, for one, was extremely skeptical of cloth masks back then and worried that they would give people a false sense of security. Now, with an overwhelming abundance of data showing their efficacy in stopping the spread, I don’t leave the house without donning one.) We thought, optimistically and maybe pridefully, that it would all be over very soon.
This time last year I was planning for a baby with no real knowledge of what becoming a parent would be like. Motherhood has defied my expectations and run them through the laundry — an apt metaphor considering how much washing, drying, and folding I do these days. First-time motherhood in a pandemic has been a steep learning curve that isolation and quarantine cannot hope to flatten. (In fact, they’ve done the opposite. I’m so glad the newborn days are over.)
I snuggled my sweet-smelling, bouncy, constantly-laughing son on my lap this morning while we livestreamed the Easter morning service, and as I let the melody of “See What a Morning” envelop me, my emotions struggled. Peace like a river, joy in the resurrection, regret for all the bitterness I’ve felt and sorrow for… well, 2020.
Over two thousand years ago, on the first Resurrection Sunday, Mary Magdalene stood weeping by Jesus’ empty grave. Confused. Afraid. Already traumatized by the bewildering death of the Son of God who had just a few days ago been walking and teaching among ordinary people. Wondering why the Messiah’s body, which she had come to lovingly anoint with herbs and spices, had vanished.
And then, just after dawn on that day which would bring joy beyond what she could possibly imagine, she stumbled into a man she presumed to be the gardener.
But it was not the gardener.
It was Jesus, in the flesh, resurrected from the dead, bringing hope and life to those who thought him gone.
He didn’t chide her for crying. He didn’t rebuke her sorrow or tell her that her pain didn’t matter. He simply asked her why she wept, and whom she sought. And then she knew who he was.
In reaching for praise this Easter, in celebrating the hope of the resurrection and the fact that Jesus has conquered death, I am reminded once again that life on earth is hard and sad and full of grief.
I’ve been very, very fortunate thus far. I haven’t lost any close friends or family to COVID-19. I’m not going to wallow in guilt for holding my loved ones close; but I also don’t want to run after joy in a way that tramples those who are weeping. This Twitter thread simply and beautifully sums up what we must keep in our minds as we celebrate Jesus’ return to life: this life on earth is still here, we are still here, and as we rejoice with those who rejoice, we also weep with those who weep.
Emotions tangle. Sorrow leaves a mark that still lingers in some ways, even after joy comes in the morning. We will never be completely free from grief, from viruses, from insecurity, from anger and cruelty and death here on this earth.
But we anticipate a new heaven, and a new earth. A time when God will wipe away all tears from our eyes.
In this time of sadness, let me have compassion. In this time of anxiety, let me have audacious hope. Let me sit with heartbreak and not stamp down emotion — but let me look and point to the final resurrection, to the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
Through the Spirit who clothes faith with certainty,
Honor and blessing, glory and praise
To the King crowned with power and authority!
And we are raised with him,
Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered;
And we shall reign with him, for he lives,
Christ is risen from the dead!
— Stuart Townend, “See What a Morning”