Today is Easter, and I didn’t go to church.
It’s probably the first time in my life that I didn’t go to church on Easter. And you know what? I don’t feel bad about it.
Now before you call me a heretic and stop reading, let me explain.
This weekend we traveled out of town for my grandfather’s funeral. It was held yesterday, the day before Easter, which meant we spent the day traveling back home. So my Easter weekend involved grieving the loss of the greatest man I’ve ever known, staying in hotels, picking out funeral clothes rather than Easter dresses, and driving 16 hours round-trip.
It’s not that I wouldn’t have rather been in church, wearing a pretty dress, taking nice pictures, eating a big ham with all the fixings, and smiling and laughing with my family. But I also understand that Easter is not that simple, not that one-sided.
Easter is about grief, struggle, imperfection and humility. It’s about a Savior who isn’t afraid to meet us in our mess.
I love that the first person Jesus appeared to after his resurrection was Mary Magdalene. She was a bit of a hot mess herself. She had previously been possessed by demons before Jesus cast them out. She came to the tomb to grieve and to worship the Savior she thought was buried there. I can’t imagine the great sorrow that must have overtaken her and the others who had put their faith in Jesus, only to watch him be brutally murdered on the cross. The hopelessness they must have felt, the depth of loss…and yet she came to worship. She mustered up enough strength in her sorrow to buy spices and then bring them to the tomb to worship.
Easter means we can grieve and worship simultaneously.
We don’t have to have our act all together and look picture-perfect to celebrate this Easter. We can come to the empty tomb with puffy eyes and hurting hearts and offer our worship to a God who accepts us just as we are. If you feel unworthy or unable to enter into the sweet presence of our Resurrected King today because you’re kind of a mess? Shake off that lie and come with your hands and heart raised. Your worship is no less meaningful or desired by God just because of the place you find yourself in. He wants you- your mess and all- offered up as a sweet-smelling offering.
Another thing I notice about Mary in her encounter with Jesus is that she didn’t even recognize Him at first. Perhaps it was because she was so overcome with grief. John 20 tells us that she had been weeping at the tomb when she turned and saw Jesus, but didn’t know that it was Him. It wasn’t until He said her name that she realized who He was.
Easter is where religion becomes relationship because Jesus calls us by name.
Before the resurrection, all we had was religion- a list of rules to abide by- that connected us to God. But when Jesus died and rose again, relationship with Him became our link to the Heavenly Father. Some of us recognized Him calling our name a long time ago. Some of us have been so overcome with life and grief and struggle that we have forgotten what Jesus even looks like. And some of us have never answered that call. But today, He is calling your name. The God who makes dead things live is calling to you and offering you life in exchange for death, joy in exchange for sorrow. Maybe the invitation to Easter felt like it was for everyone else but you. Mary was a mess that day, but He still called her by name. Stop. Listen. Do you hear Him? He’s calling your name, friend. He sees you in your sorrow and He has come to bring you the Good News of redemption.
Today is Easter, and I didn’t go to church. But I am confident that acknowledging our mess, worshipping in spite of it, and walking in relationship with Jesus is just as holy, just as precious as sitting on a church pew in a new dress. He didn’t die and raise to life for our best moments- He did it for our worst.
So to all my friends in the messy places today- it’s not too late to make this Easter one of the most redemptive yet. Just throw that hair up in a messy bun, get on your knees, and pour out your heart to Him. He’ll meet you there.