I have a confession to make about Easter . . .
Each year, it brings up some uncomfortable feelings for me. You see, on the personality scale between pragmatic and emotional, I’m way over on the boring end of the bell curve. I tend to be a very logical, calculated person. I don’t like schmaltzy love songs or romantic movies or grand gestures. I make decisions with my head and not my heart. I would prefer a committed and steady relationship to an impassionate love affair. I like the practical. I like lists. I like analyzing and understanding. And while I’m not a completely emotionless person, I don’t like anything that makes me feel like I’m supposed to feel something. My radar for emotional manipulation has a baseline of cynicism. You are not the boss of my relationship, Valentine’s Day. Maybe I am swelled with romantic feelings on October 11th and not on the day the calendar has chosen for me! My emotions will not be dictated by the calendar!! (Seriously. I think these thoughts.)
I’ve always been this way with my faith as well, in part because I was raised in a protestant denomination that espoused the values of spontaneity in worship. We didn’t follow a liturgical calendar, because that was too hemmed-in and not allowing for God to modify things along the way. We were discouraged from saying rote prayers because God wanted to hear our real, made-up words from our heart. We didn’t give things up for Lent because our devotion is not about the calendar, but should be a year-round practice. Of course, I now recognize that there was some inherent legalism in this system as well . . . but some of those values are still engrained.
Enter Easter, and the lead-up to it that starts with Lent. It seems like everywhere I look, faithful Christian friends (protestant and Catholic alike) are talking about what they are giving up for Lent in an effort to prepare their hearts for Easter. I’ve seen people declining invitations or reducing their schedules so that they can try to be more present with God as the prepare for Easter. I watch it with ambivalence, because while this is clearly something that resonates with them, the idea of forcing myself to enter into a certain mindset because of the date on the calendar just doesn’t jive with my personality.
Then there are the Easter services at church. And here’s the part where I’m going to sound really sacrilegious but you know what? I’m going there, because maybe I’m not alone and maybe some of us can create some kind of Easter support group for stoics. Because I’m always a little cringey about Easter services.
First there is the Good Friday service, where inevitably at my church there is a very somber and artistic and emotional service about the depravity of man and the death of Christ. And look . . . don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for the sacrifice of the cross. I’m in. I get it. But I don’t like feeling like on this particular day of the year I need to FEEL IT DOWN TO MY BONES. Can’t I just carry a quiet gratitude in my heart all year? At Good Friday service I feel like I’m supposed to being reminded anew and experience the grief all over again, but I just struggle to put myself in that place. I usually sit in service feeling like, “Wow. I guess I’m supposed to cry right now? But I already know this story and that it has a happy ending. So why should I be maudlin right now and wait until Sunday morning to celebrate? Why do I need to Feel All Of The Feels right now?” Good Friday usually leaves me feeling a mix of shame about my lack of emotional response and a feeling of rebellion that the church calendar is requiring that NOW is the moment that I sit with the death and resurrection of Christ, when truthfully? I’d rather just quietly sit with that knowledge every day in a more subtle and less dramatic way.
And then we’ve got Sunday morning, which is the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, which again, I BELIEVE IN AND AM GRATEFUL FOR, but these services are still confounding to me. I’m so cool with celebrating Jesus every Sunday. And every day for that matter. But Easter just feels like I’ve got to act like this is all new information.
HE IS ALIVE!
Yeah, and he was alive yesterday. And last Easter when we had a very similar service and message.
HE IS RISEN!
I know. That happened a long time ago. We all already know this, right? Except for the newbies who probably think we are insane for shouting this at each other.
You guys . . . I know. I’m terrible. I’m just sharing what goes through my head. I cannot seem to put myself into the headspace that other people are finding for Easter. I’m not built that way.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for an end to Easter celebrations. I know they are really meaningful to a lot of people. I get that catering to stoics wouldn’t make for a great service. “Jesus died and rose again . . . yada yada yada . . . feel how you want to feel today and try to make logical decisions based on this knowledge as you interact with the world every day of the year.” That’s not going to be very inspiring to most folks. And in the midst of it, there are moments were I really DO feel a swell of emotion. Our church does baptisms on Easter and those actually do make me well up, legitimately. Sometimes I get caught up in the celebration and the music. But other times, if I’m totally honest, I feel like I’m being pressured to feel and respond in a way that doesn’t come naturally for me.
I can't muster up more energy around my faith because it is a certain time of year. I know this about myself. I just don't operate that way. I am learning to let it go and to be okay with who I am and the slow and steady (and stoic) pace of my spiritual walk.
Any other stoics out there? Can I get an “amen”? (But only quietly and if you feel truly moved to say it, of course.)