Last year around Easter, I found myself dreaming (as I sometimes do) about owning a time machine. There are any number of dreams I could entertain with a time machine–making a killing in the stock market, stopping Hitler or 9/11, having a long conversation with my father who died when I was 4, meeting Abraham Lincoln or FDR.
This time, I cast my thoughts back 2,000 years, to the first Easter morning. My whole life, I’ve believed what the church teaches about Easter, but my whole life, I’ve also held some doubts. How wonderful would it be to be there? To see the stone rolled away, and left empty? To go through the rest of my life leaning not on faith, but on sight? To finally have the doubts either confirmed or pushed away, and to have certainty about how to face the rest of my life.
So I found myself there, waiting before dawn–before Mary, before the disciples–to be the first to glimpse the risen Lord. Heart hopeful, I crest a hill, and suddenly I see him, walking towards me. Suddenly, my disposition changes. I sink to my knees, and feel an unexpected emotion–terror.
It’s easy for me to close my heart to faith. To hear the tug of God’s voice, but to push it out of my head until a more convenient moment. I live 2,000 comfortable years away from the Easter miracle, and this helps me take it for granted–to live how I please, my life intersecting with God’s will for me only occasionally. But as I see Him there, I realize the terrible truth: to see the risen God, to see him conquer death and walk away from His tomb…there is no possible response but worship. I can no longer hide behind the veil of faith; I have seen this truth with my own eyes, and I cannot help but offer Him my everything. My life cannot be the same.
This reality is terrifying. Wherever He should command me, I must go. He can ask me to sell all I own–to give up my cozy and comfortable life, my security, my status, my glimmering idols. He can command me away from my precious home by the mountains into places less beautiful, less safe, less familiar. He can ask for my children, as He did of Abraham. He can ask for my life. I sob, again and again–grieving the loss of all the things I hold too dear, all the things that I thought I owned. They all belong to Him now; they always did, but now I see it too clearly. I can’t hide behind a shield of uncertainty, pretending that I don’t understand His call; He will speak to me, face to face, and then I must obey.
I stay on the ground weeping in my selfishness as He closes the distance between us. I’m too ashamed to look at His face. His feet stop a short distance away, and He speaks: “My child, why do you weep?” I choke out something unintelligible, taking comfort knowing that He understands what I’m saying even if I can’t find the words. He listens for an eternity while I stammer through my fears. Almost paralyzed with fear, I reach my conclusion: what is your command? What would you have me do? He touches my shoulder gently. “Rise up, and follow me.”
His command shakes me through time and space. I wake up, startled, in my comfortable bed in a comfortable house by the mountains, the last of his words still ringing in my ears: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I can scarcely breathe. Such a tremendous weight feels lifted from me. I lie there, breathing heavily, as I process the magnitude of His compassion and forgiveness. This is mercy indeed.
When my heartbeat slows to its normal pace, I sit up and ease myself to my feet. I smile in the half-light of the Easter sun forcing its way into the room through the cracks in the shutters. And I take a fumbling step after Him.