I love Easter. What could be a stronger expression of the triumph of hope over despair, light over darkness, life over death? It is trust in this triumph that is the heart of my value system.
Rooted first in metaphor, my world view swerved over into outright belief in the tenets of Christianity some years back, not that you would know it from my recent church attendance record. That transition had some interesting steps, but it started by deep and thoughtful consideration of what I knew of my own experience to be true, then expanded to a few key concepts taught by others. Without any attempt to be definitive or complete on this beautiful Easter morning, I offer up a few of them.
Opposite things can be true—hold them in your mind without trying to resolve the contradiction. Dealing with the death of a loved one or the loss of a friendship calls us to grief and rage. At the same time, we know that death comes to each of us and that loss is our lot on earth—that truth requires acceptance. One loss after another, sometimes it seems that way, until that final loss of our own lives resolves into who knows what. Personally, I don’t need to know what comes next—I have quite enough to manage to process what is going on in this lifetime. Perhaps if the Buddhists are right and we have multiple approaches to truth, perhaps in my next lifetime I will get to chew on that issue.
Despair is a sin. As a person who has battled depression from time to time, this was a hard one for me. My nature is sunny and upbeat, but my biochemistry sometimes goes in the opposite direction. How can that be?
If you hang around churches very much, soon you will notice that people may stay away for years but come back for holidays like Christmas and Easter, but even more they come back for major life transitions—joyous ones like weddings and baptisms, sad ones like funerals—and for comfort in times of trouble. Churches persist because they bring comfort and because they deliver the message that we mere mortals must look beyond today’s sadness in our own lives to a bigger picture. If we insist on focusing only on our own pain, only today, admittedly real and deserving our care, but if that is all we see, we are guilty of despair. So I had to learn to see beyond my immediate moods and let my heart lift up my biochemically challenged brain. This ongoing practice takes a lot of private time, and my family and friends often don’t understand where my moods are at any given time, but life is better now.
Despair is an interesting word—it means literally the lack of hope. In French, “esperer” means “to hope.” Some years ago, working in Brazil, I was startled to see the copy machine display the following message: “Espere!” It turns out that in Portuguese, this simply means “Wait” but it gave me a giggle to get an inspirational poke from the copy machine.
Start from where you are. We all have our individual challenges and demons; likewise we all have unique gifts. What if we were to put aside the demons for a little while? Not pretend they don’t exist, just set them aside. What if we were to spend even one day celebrating the glory of our own lives and of those we love? What if we were to aggressively follow the advice of the copy machine as I first heard it: Hope! Take a day to celebrate hope. No, I didn’t say hop, but that might work, too. Have a happy, hopeful, hoppy Easter!