I’ve only attended one Easter sunrise service in my life, but looking back I can see how very blessed and privileged I was, for it took place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, overlooking the Reflecting Pool, in Washington D.C. I was with my dad and I think I was about 13 or 14 years old. The sunrise looked something like the one pictured here. Pretty. Spectacular. Pretty spectacular.
And there is one memory that stands out for me the most, aside from the triumphant Easter music and the rousing sermon.
During one especially moving song, I glanced up at my father’s face. Tears streaming from his eyes reflected the morning light. I was caught off guard and mystified.
‘Why is Dad crying? Is he ok?’
The questions boomed in my mind like thunder, but I was paralyzed. It seemed completely wrong to ask him – to interrupt what was clearly an important moment – so I didn’t. I held my tongue. But I never forgot.
Fast forward to two weeks ago, when I was sitting at my kitchen table with my own 13-year old son after school. He and I have been having pow-wows to go over his assignments as a way of staying on top of the demands of middle school. At the end of our discussion, I found there was something on my heart that I needed to say.
“You know,” I began, “You’ll be leaving my house in 5 years, and there are things I want you to understand before you go. What do you think is the ONE thing I really want you to know?”
“That you love me,” he said, rolling his eyes while giving me a charming half-smile.
“Yes, yes. Ok, that. But what else.”
“That I should get a job.”
“Ha! Ok. That too. What else?”
“I should go to church.”
“Well, sort of….I mean, yes that’s good and all, but what’s more important is that you have a relationship with God. That you KNOW Him. That you understand our God – Jesus – is FOR you. Do you know what I mean?”
“I think so.”
“Ok, we’ll discuss this again. Because this, this is the most important thing I want you to know. In this life, you are going to encounter stuff that Dad and I can’t help you with, and your friends can’t help you with, and whoever you marry can’t help you with. Only God can help you. He is the One who can meet all your needs because he created you. This is why I tell you about Him, and why He’s so important.”
The conversation kind of ended from there, and that’s ok; I’ve found that faith is best fed to kids in small bites.
What my dad knew that Easter morning so long ago is exactly what I wanted to explain to my son: Faith in Jesus is a personal experience. It’s a one-to-one encounter with a risen Savior. It isn’t a community deal. It isn’t a cultural tradition. It’s SO MUCH BETTER than that.
Jesus rose from the dead to prove to us His absolute authority over the powers of this world. We can totally rely on Him. He is our Protector, Provider, Defender, Champion, Friend, Redeemer…the list goes on and on. And all we have to do to know Him is turn our hearts to Him and ask Him to enter in.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
I railed against this Truth for a long, long time. I understood it to mean that God would condemn me to an eternal torment if I did not follow his Son, and I just couldn’t square this with a loving God. I couldn’t even see that I could ‘perish’ in the here and now – that life today could be far less than was envisioned for me.
But I finally came to a point where anger, depression, and fear burdened me so much that I fell to my knees and cried out to God – and guess what? He answered. I found I could trust in his name. His name has a rock solid reputation of Love. Every single time I turned to Him, He was there. And the condemnation I had been suspicious of in Him, was actually in me. With my lack of faith in Him, I had condemned myself to life without Him, and it was bleak indeed.
I went back and re-read John 3:18, and then I understood.
“For every cross, there is a resurrection,” the saying goes, meaning that with Christ, all burdens, no matter how impossible they may seem, can be mitigated or overcome. A man who can defeat death can do anything. Don’t ever underestimate Him.
This Easter, let’s surrender our hearts, minds, souls, and strength to Our Risen Lord – Jesus Christ – in full trust that He is worthy, because He is absolutely FOR us.