Monday, April 21, 2014
Ethan's First Real Easter
Sometime back I realized that although we say we are not supposed to bury our children, God has quite often set our lives on just such a course -- not merely now, when we lose our children to accidents and illnesses, addictions and suicides, wars and crime. No, even in Biblical times we mothers have buried our children.
Mary buried her son, Jesus.
Yes, He came to her on miracle and she knew from before His birth that He was God's son. When He began His ministry, He was followed by thousands and performed miracles of His own. She must have been amazed that the babe she had held in her arms, a child who may have seemed fairly regular much of the time, had grown into the man He became. We have no inkling that God or His angels ever revealed to her the ultimate plan.
Mary didn't know when she watched Her son be reviled by her neighbors, crucified between two thieves, and then taken from the cross, battered and bleeding, still warm but without life in His body, that there was some greater purpose to her loss. During that most human of times between the time He was crucified and Easter morning, she was just as I have been for four months -- a grieving mother.
Surely during that time she questioned God, "Why?" Surely she asked, "Why work such a miracle to give me your son? Why spare Him from the soldiers' spears as a baby? Why grant Him the power to work miracles and minister to thousands? Why would you do all of that, take Him safely through so much, and then let Him be taken and killed? Why is my baby dead? Why is my son laying cold and lifeless in a grave during this holy time when he should be here with me and the people who cared about Him?"
Any mother who has lost a child, a son, has the same questions in essence. We don't wonder about the miracles, but we do wonder why they may have been spared one ailment, walked away from a car crash, made the right choices for so long to suddenly be just as lost to us as Jesus when they rolled the stone across His tomb.
Like I have been, she was surrounded by people who cared about her, people who loved her son, people who were as bewildered by how things seemed to have turned out as she was. None of them knew what was coming. Like me and my comforters, we had all thought things would work out for the best.
But I also realized this Easter how it was so much worse for them. I had thought, how wonderful that her grief only lasted those three days before the miracle at the tomb; how unimaginable it must have been to suddenly have Him back and be lifted from the pit of despair by His return. Then I realized how much darker those days were, not just because of the persecution and uncertainty, because they did not know the world had changed and that the impossible had become possible.
As several grieving mothers posted messages about their children spending Easter in heaven on Facebook, I came to a realization that had previously eluded me. Before Jesus, death and hell had not been conquered. When you died, had you not managed to live a spotless life, unless you were one of the old-time prophets who walked with God, the grave was an uncertain place. Had there been adequate sacrifices on your behalf? Had you broken one of the laws that your religion decreed were necessary to be just? Had you been good enough for a reward?
Even knowing how perfect Jesus was and that He was the son of God, once He was taken and crucified, Mary and those closest to Him must have doubted. Beyond all the questions about why His life had ended as it had, beyond the horror of those final hours, there had to be an uncertainty that went to the core of their beings. What now? I don't think they understood the gift they had been given and they had no way of understanding what was to come, even though they had been told repeatedly.
We don't have to have that now. I don't have to worry that my son had messed up and squandered the gift of his life, that he had sinned and that his eternity is in question because Jesus took care of that. He wiped the slate clean and kept wiping it clean every time he messed up. He does the same for me and for those who will call upon his name. When Ethan died and his body was subjected to an autopsy and then buried in the ground, I didn't have to worry about what came next. When I got the call that he was dead, I knew he was already in heaven. Although he was struggling on earth, his ultimate fate had not been up for grabs for a long time.
At the same time, I don't know how anyone gets through this without God and the belief that what He promised is real and that our time in these earthly bodies is just a brief part of our existence. I know there are people who find ways to cope and survive, people who are like the professor in "God's Not Dead," denying God's existence because they are angry at how life turned out, when they are actually angry with God. I've been angry with God as well, not just at Ethan's death, but at the turns his life took and sometimes at what has happened in my own life. Not understanding, being angry and hurt doesn't undo my faith.
So this Easter it was even less about baskets and presents and eggs and new church clothes. It was about peace and resurrection and new life and belief in the promise of the empty tomb.
It was about knowing Ethan was celebrating Easter with the one who conquered death and the tomb and made it all possible. That was, almost, enough to get me through the day dry-eyed.