I have always wondered why the celebration of Christmas is so much bigger than the celebration of Easter. Christmas is about new birth, while Easter is about rebirth. Both are miracles, but Easter …
I have always wondered why the celebration of Christmas is so much bigger than the celebration of Easter. Christmas is about new birth, while Easter is about rebirth. Both are miracles, but Easter gives me the greater sense of hope. While some of my greatest joys have been the birth of my children and grandchildren, I have felt the presence of God most fully during the dark times.
One spring afternoon a few years ago, my husband told me that he had met someone else and he was leaving at the end of the week. I was devastated. The life we were building together was instantly destroyed. The feelings of loss and abandonment were overwhelming. I felt completely unloved and cast aside. At the time, I was teaching high school and I wandered through the end of the school year in a dense fog. Somewhere in this darkness, I knew that God was with me, but I felt that the joy had been sucked out of my life.
As I was wallowing in my grief, wondering if my broken heart would ever heal, a former student, who had just received a summer internship working for JetBlue Airlines, offered me his buddy pass – an opportunity to fly free for the whole summer. This was without a doubt the nicest thing a student has ever done for me. I traveled to Boston, New York and Seattle. I climbed the Rocky Mountains, rode a bicycle in Martha’s Vineyard, experienced the beauty of Yosemite and visited the wine country in Sonoma.
My first leg of the journey was to Washington, D.C. In a bookstore, I saw a coffee cup that said, “Just when the caterpillar thought that life was over, it became a butterfly.”
Throughout the summer, I hiked and I prayed. I gravitated to the national parks, where I felt God with me in a powerful way. That summer, I became a butterfly. I came home in between trips to find that my divorce was final. Instead of being another devastating blow, something about it was freeing. When I returned to my teaching job that fall, I had new joy, new life, and was ready to walk more fully in my life of following Jesus.
In September, I heard a sermon about taking up your cross and following Jesus. While this was a passage I had heard preached many times, it struck me in a new way. I told the pastor that I wanted to follow Jesus more fully, and asked him how I could determine what my cross was to bear. I would pick it up and follow if I knew what I was supposed to do. He told me to draw close to God in prayer and to be obedient to how I felt God calling.
The first nudges I felt in my heart were to forgive my ex-husband. I forgave him and continued to listen to God’s calling. A few weeks later, sitting in church, I experienced a powerful sense of calling within my heart to go into full-time ministry. In following this calling God has given me purpose, community and joy. I have experienced new life.
Easter is all about this journey from death to new life. Each of us can experience this new life by opening our hearts to what God is speaking into our hearts. Our sins and losses die with the death of Jesus. The hopes and dreams that God has for us are alive in the resurrection. At Easter, every one of us can become a butterfly.
Heather Harding is pastor of Fleming Island United Methodist Church.