I love the changing of the seasons. Oh, I have a favorite season, but there’s something really special about the changing of one season into another. Right now, where I live, spring is blooming more and more each day. The grass is starting to turn green, the bumble bees are feasting on the freshly opened flowers, the sky is as blue as the ocean and the hot days give way to cooler nights. New life is everywhere and it fills my senses with hope. With spring also comes one of my favorite holidays.
When I was younger this time of year was special only because I would get a new dress, or a “new to me” dress. With three girls in the family, my mom made sure every article of clothing was used in its entirety. So, I wore plenty of “hand me downs” as we called them. But, nonetheless, I loved putting on a bright colored outfit, waking up to a chocolate bunny and heading to church to sing happy songs about a risen Savior. The gravity of this day did not fully sink in until many years later. I was a young mom with kids the first time I really began to understand how much Easter meant to my faith.
A life given in exchange for mine.
In our small town we celebrate the week before Easter with what we call “Holy Week Services.” It’s unique to this place as I have never talked to another person who has this practice in their hometown. It’s kind of amazing really. Five local churches each agree to host a lunchtime service complete with songs and a homily followed by a light lunch each day of the week leading up to Easter Sunday. The whole thing takes less than an hour, and that’s very intentional so everyone, including those who work, can come and be a part of the observance. The beauty is that each day as you head to a different church, you’re reminded that Easter is coming.
It’s become one of my favorite things.
In one of the services the speaker read a passage of scripture. And as she did I had the most surreal feeling; that same passage had been on my mind for several days. Hearing it felt like just the confirmation I needed for this season of my life. Funny, I haven’t really enjoyed the life season changes like I have the ones that affect the weather; these recent times have been difficult and nearly unbearable then turning into unsure and unfamiliar.
But, somehow, through it all the Lord has held me steady. He stayed my course and didn’t let me sail off into the great unknown of unbearable grief. He held me close as I watched my heart in the form of adult children move away to start a new life. And He soothed my pain as my precious daddy walked down the aisle to marry a woman other than my mom. So many times it felt as if my world was spinning out of control; and maybe it was.
It was in these tumultuous times I would find myself so desperate for relief, and the Lord would draw near to me through His Word or a faithful friend or a song. He would minister to the broken places in my heart. He has been so faithful. Anything He has asked me to endure, He has been right there to help me, sustain me and wipe my tears. I’ve asked Him so many times, “why?” Why do we have to go through so many hard things? The answer to that question I may never know, but now that I am a little farther down life’s road and I have the advantage of hindsight, I can see how God has used the trials, each and every hardship for my good.
None of it is wasted.
As I was sitting on the pew this afternoon listening to the scripture, I realized this story that is so meaningful could be MY story. I could be the woman in the passage. Looking back over my life I find myself wishing I had done so many things differently; lessons I wish I’d learned sooner, advice I wish I would’ve listened to, situations I wish I’d handled better. So many regrets. Yet, I can’t think of ONE time where I didn’t feel that small impression in my heart reminding me that I was better than the decision I had just made or worth more than I could imagine.
His love carried me through; through fear, rejection, loss, change, and uncertainty.
I find myself this Easter with so many emotions bottled up inside my heart, with so many words I’m having trouble putting together in my mind, with such thankfulness I long to express. How do I repay the One who gave His all for me? How do I begin to show this deep gratitude I feel for the many miles He has walked by my side?
I find myself feeling as Martha did in John 12: 1-11.*
She brought to Jesus ALL that she had, her most priceless treasure and poured it on Him as she wept. I believe her tears were not just because of her sorrows, but because of her joys and thankfulness as well. Those tears represented all the Savior had done for her. The “perfume” she gave came at a cost, the price being unconditional obedience.
When I praise the Lord in prayer or in worship these days my praise is not the same as that little girl wearing the not so new dress or the young mom whose responsibilities felt so heavy. No, I praise Him with the brokenness of a middle aged woman who has suffered at the cruel hand of sorrow, my praise is deliberate and it has come at great price.
The perfume I offer is my praise.
This Easter Sunday morning wear the pretty spring colored clothes, enjoy the chocolate bunny and sing with gusto during the morning worship. But most importantly, remember the great price that was paid for you, and be generous with the praises that you offer up to the One who is worth them all.
And if you’re ever in my small town around Easter, come to one the Holy Week services, I’ll save you a seat.
*John 12:1-11. NLT
“Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus.”