We gathered in.
Wonderful breakfast, wonderful friends, but my heart was heavy.
I hadn’t heard from the three kids we take to Sunday School all week.
I planned so carefully for their presence, and for this day of gladness.
“JESUS IS ALIVE!!!” I had planned to tell them. Their mother was going
to come. And their Mom-Mom. And (maybe) the man they call “Daddy”
(when they don’t call him by his first name).
But the best laid plans of mice and men — and especially Mennonite women–
often go awry. And these plans certainly had. When I brought my Sweet Mama
home from the hospital on Wednesday night, my heart was heavy with the things
that were on my schedule for the days immediately following. I had prayed and
asked for wisdom and felt like the wisest thing was to “clear the decks” of
everything except taking care of Mama. One of those things was our usual
Thursday night supper/playtime/gabfest with “my kids.” I had thought ahead
to Sunday Morning, and wondered if they didn’t come to Thursday night if they
would show on Sunday morning.
And so I prayed about that, too, and decided that I would just talk it all over
with their mother. She didn’t answer her phone (no surprise, really) so I left
a detailed message, asking her to please call me so we could discuss things about
Sunday morning. Then I waited to hear from her. Nothing. So I prayed about
that, too, and I honestly felt like God said that the ball was in the Mother’s court.
And if the children didn’t come because she hadn’t followed through, I needed
to lay it down. Let it go. Trust that God had a better thing in mind for this
Easter Morning. The people at Laws Mennonite Church gather in. I’ve said it
before, but the truth is there is so much to celebrate when we are together when
it isn’t Easter, but so much more so on the Holy Days as we remember the sacrifice
made for us. It helps, I suppose, that the food is usually spectacular when we are
together, and Easter Sunday Brunch was no exception.
Then we gathered in the familiar auditorium for the Easter service. Just as we got
started, Certain Man’s chicken house alarm went off, and he needed to leave. I always
miss him when he isn’t there beside me! The Sunday School class we call the “Younger
women’s class” had carefully planned the program. We had a guest worship leader.
Peter John and his wife, Brianna, had agreed to be with us to provide music and
direction for the meeting. Pete led off with the old song, “Watch the Lamb.” Such
an appropriate song for this season, and one that I sincerely love.
I was totally unprepared for the trainload of emotions that was barreling down
the track straight at me.
There was a time, probably 20 years ago, when my brother in law sang
that very song in our Easter program. Suddenly, I was transported back in time
to when he and my sister, Alma, and their four children were a part of our church family.
As were my brother, Mark, and his wife and their six children. As were my other sister,
Sarah, and her husband and their six children. I sat there in the meeting of our church
family and suddenly there was no thrill of joy in this resurrection story. The day
had become one to count the losses. I looked around at this group of people whom
I love dearly, and appreciate deeply, but there were so many people missing who
once were there. Somewhere around the middle of the song, the tears began to fall.
I missed our sons. I missed my many cousins. But it hasn’t just been my physical family
that has chosen to go. It’s been friend after friend after friend. And (I weep to
acknowledge) the walk away isn’t finished yet with the people I love.
I struggled to sing those songs of joy, and I tried to let the joy seep down through
the heaviness to the place in my heart where things usually get resolved for me. The
words were timeless, the truth needed no defense, the resurrection is something
that I believe with all my heart. And this spring, this glorious spring! What a
constant reminder of a mind-boggling phenomenon.
I reminded myself that this music was the music of praise, of victory, of joy! I
listened to Pete’s voice and heard a three-boy band, practicing in my living room
a decade ago, and thought about Pete and Lem and Steven working so hard to mesh
their voices and talents. Pete. Steven. Lem. My heart gave another lurch, so I
forcefully wrapped that thought up in a distraction and put it away. I couldn’t think
about this now. But the train just kept on coming. It seemed like we sang song after
song that brought back incredible memories. There was the song that was sung at
Rachel and Lupe’s baptism right there in our little church. I tried not to think about
Thailand and Guatemala and my faraway girlies.
And I got increasingly good at “not thinking about things” until one of the very
last songs. I tried, I really did . . . and finally gave up when the words and music
to an old Keith Greene song floated through the quiet sanctuary.
In the memories of my mind bank, I saw a young man, Oldest Son’s best friend,
alone with his guitar at the front of the auditorium. He was singing this song
from his heart as only he could sing it, and it struck a resonant chord in more
than one discouraged soul. It was dead quiet when he finished, and I
remembered the poignant acknowledgment of the condition of my own “old heart”
so in need of softening and washing. Now, sitting in the congregation of believers
this Easter Morning, I wondered if I (personally) or we (corporately) had learned
anything at all.
Later, praying about a totally different situation, I was mulling over losses and
going on and making the best and seeing the progress and the whole concept of
“hope.” As I prayed yet again for Karissa and Kevin and Carla and Eric and Kelly,
my heart was struck anew with how this life and its losses and the things that
happen that we hate, and the people that we miss and the situations that are just
so “wrong” in our eyes are still not out of the control of The Father. I don’t
believe that God “likes” loss and reversals and pain. In fact, I think He hates it
with a God-intensity that we have no comprehension of. It’s all part of the fallen
world. It’s what happens in a world that is under the curse of Sin. HOWEVER- –
God had a plan for the fallen-ness of this old world and the horrific pain that comes
that mission accomplished, God, through His son, Jesus, had a plan that included
GRACE for every single one of us and our shortcomings, our character flaws, our sin.
And just as there is a “best thing” for those who have such daunting things to face as
Karissa and her family, so there is a “best thing” for our little church and the challenges
that we have faced and are facing.
Do I know what that is? No, I don’t.