Waiting for Easter

Early tomorrow (Good Friday) morning we’ll be flying to Boston, then heading up to New Hampshire to spend Easter weekend with our son Bjorn and his wife Abby and their 2-year-old son Soren. I can’t wait! Whenever we’re on the way to visit any of our kids and grandkids, I feel the same way: I just can’t wait! There’s a wonderful anticipation because we know what’s coming—we always so love being with our family.

But lately I’ve been thinking about a different kind of waiting. It’s the kind of waiting Jesus’ disciples experienced between Good Friday and Resurrection morning. Those hours—days—must have felt like forever. Because remember, they didn’t know—as we do—how the story would turn out.

In Reliving the Passion (a phenomenal book which, by the way, I read every Lenten season and highly recommend), Walter Wangerin captures in a remarkable way the feelings that must have been in the hearts of those who knew and loved Jesus. He imagines Mary lingering among the tombs on Saturday, that wretched empty day when it seemed He’d left them forever:
“Stone cold. And the stone is closed. Where do I go from here? Nowhere. Back to the city. Which is a nowhere now. The Master isn’t there. The Master is not. Everywhere is nowhere. There’s nowhere to go….Because the whole world is a graveyard….Jesus! Jesus! Without you I am a nothing in a nowhere.” [Wangerin, p. 151]

Can you imagine what that must have felt like? We twenty-first century disciples have a hard time even thinking through such a scenario—one in which on Good Friday and the never-ending Saturday that followed, we don’t know that Jesus will rise from the dead—altering history, our own and the entire world’s—forever.

Because we live on the other side of Easter, where we know how it all turns out, I think we often miss out on that overwhelming sense of whooping joy Mary and the other disciples experienced that glorious Easter morning. “Whooping joy”—that’s what Wangerin calls it.

We today can’t entirely know what that kind of waiting—the long desperate hours between Good Friday and the First Easter—feels like. But we certainly experience many kinds of waiting in our lives. Much of the waiting is hard—very, very hard. We wait for illnesses to be healed. For jobs to be found. For relationships to be restored. For pain to be alleviated. For that glorious reunion one day with our loved ones who’ve gone on before us.

I recently heard a very moving testimony from a father whose beautiful daughter was tragically killed in a freak auto accident one sunny summer morning nearly two years ago. He described with great faith, authenticity, and vulnerability his tortuous journey through grieving, even as a deep Christian. How desperately he and his wife would like to see their daughter again—now. But God’s message to him? “Wait.”

I’m reminded of Wangerin’s words to Mary Magdalene:
“Grief, while you are grieving, lasts forever. But under God, forever is a day. Weeping, darling Magdalene, may last the night. But joy cometh with the sunrise—and then your mourning shall be dancing, and gladness shall be the robe around you, Wait. Wait.” [Wangerin, p. 138]

So, go ahead and prepare for Easter, my dear mom-friends. Clean the house. Hide the eggs. Prepare for Easter dinner. Above all, find some creative ways to share the Easter story with your kids. (See last year’s Easter blog for some funny interpretations my kids got of the story. How do you make the story “come alive” for the kids at your house?)

But as you do all this, may God bless your waiting. Your waiting for Easter and all the other waiting in your lives. Remember, there’s “whooping joy” to come. Happy Easter!