Absence & Abundance

I’ve read posts on Facebook in which moms are boycotting the social distancing measures, choosing to brave the virus and go to the store to purchase items for Easter baskets.

Oh, boy.

If you’re that mom, do you realize that quick trip to the dollar store just to pick up a bag of plastic eggs could be the one time you accidentally touch the railing at the register, and now you have become infected.  You’ll share the infection on the debit card machine at Shop a Lot, and the person next in line, who only needed milk, will go home and infect her elderly mother who lives with her.

Or maybe you’re digging in your heels and refusing to alter your family’s tradition of Easter dinner.  You think it’s just me, it’s just my sister and her kids, or my grandpa; there’s less than ten of us, so it’s fine.  But if every person in America has Easter dinner with six extra family members, and then just half of that number goes back to their community and interacts with the same number, in a drive-thru or by handling a package, all the work we’ve put into the last few weeks of quarantine will be compromised.

By abstaining from that one trip for nonessentials or dinner with extended family, we are showing that we genuinely love and care for the people we’re missing as well as the rest of the population.

The argument I most often read is, “My kids deserve an Easter.”

I wonder if those parents celebrate Easter as Christians, and if so, do they realize that Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice and that sacrifice is what we are recognizing on this somber holiday?  Is it a coincidence that our being called to press pause on our lives has closely paralleled the timing of Lent?  Maybe instead of lavishing our children with chocolate eggs and overflowing baskets, we should be considering God’s sacrifice.

Maybe we need less and, in return, our kids will get infinitely more.

I’ve always disliked the word “deserve,” as in I deserve better or that guy deserved what he got.  Based on the foundations of Christianity, none of us deserve the eternal gift of heaven.  Absolutely nothing we could do should be enough.  Nothing.  Yet we are saved by His grace.

Jesus died so you can have eternal life, not so your children can be entitled to gobbling up a chocolate bunny or hunting Easter eggs.

I’m not discounting our Easter traditions.  It will feel surreal this Sunday as we watch church online and later enjoy Easter dinner separately, chatting with family members on Zoom.  There will be an ache, that feeling of missing someone.  Yet neither of my daughters expect a basket Sunday morning; they grasp the social distancing recommendations and wouldn’t want me to put myself at risk by shopping, especially for things no one really needs.

Maybe this understanding is easier for us because I’m in the high-risk category for COVID-19, which makes us take the CDC’s recommendations seriously.  Between cancer treatment and chronic Lyme, my immune system has been ravaged and radiation has left me with a partially-collapsed right lung.  All of this means my girls and I haven’t left our home in four weeks, and my husband has only gone to the grocery store and back.  We are doing everything we can to keep me safe, but even more, we are doing our part to keep all of YOU safe.

But mom guilt is real, especially right now when our children may be struggling with our current “normal.”  We tend to feel responsible for our children’s happiness, and often that means following the societal norms for holiday expectations.  Our kids have always had new dresses for Easter and baskets full of candy and trinkets, so we feel compelled to continue these traditions.

But what if our traditions have spiraled into actions opposite of what we intended for good?  Much like Christmas, what if the commercialization of Easter has stolen the somber intention of remembering the sacrifice of Jesus Christ?  What if, in our abundance of traditions, we’ve stopped focusing on the absence of Christ in the tomb?

It’s interesting to me that the word “Easter” itself actually comes from the celebration of the Anglo-Saxon goddess, Eostre, who symbolized the rebirth of the day at dawn and the rebirth of life in the spring.  I like to think this season of our lives will give way to rebirth, to a better way of living, to a slowing down and appreciating.  I can’t express how much joy and hope flood me when the view from my world turns from muddy browns to luscious greens.  With each bud and blossom, I see God, and I think, “Yes, this Easter is special.”  Not because we have an abundance of material items, but because we have an abundance of gratitude for the abundance we’ve taken for granted for too long.

It will be a quiet Sunday here.  A simple meal and no gifts.  Jokes told over Zoom instead of handshakes and hugs.  No grandbabies to snuggle.  We’ll skip the sunrise option, but we will watch a church service on this laptop and we’ll pray for those who are sick or grieving, hungry or hurting, lonely or in need of being alone.  They don’t deserve their pain anymore than Jesus deserved the beating, the mocking, or the crown of thorns.

But, friends, He is RISEN.  There is nothing better to share with your children than this Good News.  It is in Christ’s absence in that tomb that we celebrate, and one mom to another, it is okay for there to be an absence of baskets this Sunday morning.

After all, it is in absence that we most appreciate abundance.

Xo,

Jena

P.S.  No magic bunny will arrive here this weekend, but there was the UPS man who came today, and he’s a little bit like magic these days.

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