Not being a ham-eater (I know! The sacrilege…), Easter was not the holiday I looked forward to when I was growing up. Getting up early for Sunrise Service and having to put up with ham in the house was not nearly offset enough by Cadbury Eggs (much as I love them).
For all of these reasons, it’s funny that now I associate Easter with a different set of feelings.
The change started in 2007. [I was in the middle of the European back-packing tour that was the bittersweet conclusion to six months of living in Edinburgh, Scotland on a student work visa. Coming back to America was a daunting prospect. I was happy in Edinburgh. While my family was in the 'States, there was not much else waiting for me... no job, no place to live, and friends who had been building their lives, post-college, without me around. Knowing that being in Europe with free time wasn't likely to happen anytime soon, I had planned this whole experience to give myself almost six weeks after my visa was up before I had to be in London catching a flight home.]
Some pieces of this Grand Tour had been planned, but I had a gap between being in Morocco for a week with my old college roommate, and a planned stay in Florence, Italy. I got back to France on the Thursday before Easter, and spent some time in Marseilles and Nice. But as beautiful as Nice is, my restless little soul whispered to me “keep moving, this isn’t it.” So on Easter Sunday, I hopped on a train for Genova, Italy, and hoped I’d figure something out to keep me busy and entertained for a few days before heading to Florence in a few days’ time.
I sat on that train, and missed my family. Desperately. It was a strange feeling. I had missed them in the months previous, certainly. But it was a “I wish they were here, so I can show them this [insert cool thing/place/scene here]“, rather than a homesick feeling of wishing I was there they were. But, sitting on that train, I felt homesick. And lonely. And, possibly, a little bit sorry for myself. My sister was going to be telling everyone the first kid of the next generation was on its way, and I wasn’t there.
Upon arriving in Genova, I knew this wasn’t my stop either. Back on the train, and following a hunch based on five sentences in a Lonely Planet guide, I was headed for the Cinque Terre and a town named Riomaggiore.
Riomaggiore was a blessing unlooked for that day. Landing in this little Italian town provided some much needed peace to a weary and sore soul. Watching the sunset from a hill overlooking the town and the water, I couldn’t help but think about a lesson learned long ago in all my years of Sunday School. There’s a section in Luke where Jesus basically tells his disciples not to worry so much. Worry will not add any time to our lives, he says, pointing to how the birds are fed, and the lilies clothed in splendor … and how much more important are we than they?
I am often too logical for faith to be easy.
But in that Easter, I felt like maybe I was a lily too – amply and richly provided for, through no effort of my own.
Two years’ later, I thought about that feeling again, after spending Easter with my family and hearing a sermon about being surprised by hope. It was interesting to have my experience framed, however coincidentally, in a way that resonated so strongly. And Easter and I became a little bit better friends, as I wrote about what I was thankful for in a Facebook note.
Last Easter, I got to hold my brand new nephew and know again the joy and unfathomable love that is holding a new little one that is yours. [Dear niece and nephews, you are mine. I'm not replacing your parents. But, know this: I love you dearly and will always be there for you].
The year since has been a roller coaster I couldn’t have predicted. But here I am again, at Easter – grateful the lessons learned and the memories made on this day. Time goes far too quickly too often, so I’ll just take a minute here, if that’s alright.