The Day After Easter

Cadbury Eggs are one of the great wonders of the modern world. They’re precious like gold or baby otters. When I was a kid, the Creme Eggs were delicacies that only showed up once a year in the baskets our Easter Bunny/mom set out for us at the breakfast table before church. Sure, there was more in the baskets, but the eggs were what mattered.

I still get excited when I see the Cadbury Eggs commercial on TV each year. It’s been airing since I was a kid and features the cast of a Noah’s Ark reenactment wearing bunny ears as they audition for the part of the Cadbury Bunny. Though I’ve seen it a thousand times, when it airs I’m back in my kid-sized body, excited at seeing those Cadbury Creme Eggs nestled among faux-grass in my basket.

(Seeing that lion and that llama wearing bunny ears in the Cadbury commercial gives me the same feeling of warmth and comfort as the Hershey’s Kisses who ding like handbells at Christmas. Both commercials have become intrinsically linked to their respective holidays and both bring me visceral bursts of joy.)

However, as great as those chocolate treats are on Easter morning, they’re even better the morning after. Why? They’re half price. I actually believe The Day After Easter should be a part of our celebration, not just because of the shelves of discounted candy (go now!), but because it represents the first day of a new hope.

In her book Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott says, “We’re Easter people, living in a Good Friday world.” Oh how I love that.

That’s silly Christianese. What does that even mean?

Glad you asked.

Good Friday, an oddly-named day to commemorate something not very good at all, is the day Jesus was crucified. After he spent three years teaching about loving each other, providing for the poor and sick, and imploring religious folks to not care more about their religion than they did actual people, he was put to death. The semantics are subverted in that the “good” part of Good Friday is Jesus dying so we may have everlasting life. (Maybe you don’t buy into all of that. No worries, keep reading.) I often thought it was strange that a day meant for remembering the execution of a peaceful man—albeit someone who was an outspoken lightning rod for challenging political, religious and societal traditions and whose follower count multiplied faster than the bunnies who would come to later serve as the mascot for his big weekend—could be called “good.” To me, death did not equate to anything good.

Our Good Friday church services were solemn affairs. The lighting was so low in the sanctuary it was hard to see, a cross on the stage would be gently illuminated, soft piano music ushered the silent congregation to their seats, and someone gave a message about the importance of the sacrifice God made on our behalf. We ended the service with communion before leaving to go eat chips and queso with our family at Tia’s.

I never enjoyed those services because the atmosphere was so grave (Easter pun!), but the purpose wasn’t for enjoyment or for entertainment. Rather, it was for somber reflection on Jesus’ sacrifice and on death.

It’s that sacrifice that puts the “good” in Good Friday, but the point of Jesus’ story isn’t the solemn Good Friday part. Maybe the dying part is the end of the story in Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar but the point is actually the resurrection. The point is the rebirth of hope. This is one of those endings with over-arching importance. It means something very specific about salvation and holiness and God-in-us and eternity, but much like everything else in the Bible, it also means something to our present day-to-day.

I’m one of the multitude who watches Game of Thrones and over the past few seasons, I’ve wondered why the White Walkers made me so uncomfortable. Yes, they’re among the ruthless villains in this narrative, but as I reflected on the rebirth part of Easter this week, I realized they make me uneasy for two very specific reasons. The first: What was meant to stay in the ground, didn’t; and second: They exist solely for the destruction of the living.

The White Walkers are not living in the freedom of resurrection, rather, they’re existing in an endless loop of death and as such, can only inflict that death upon others. In some ways, they aren’t that different from the people in our lives who tear us down, the moments in our past where we’ve failed, or the circumstances that have brought us pain. Those feelings and memories and influences can be just as relentless in trying to destroy the life in us as these fictional blue-eyed zombies. But on last night’s episode of Thrones, one of the characters said he came to fight for the living. I loved that because so do we, we Easter people, and mostly that fight takes place inside us.

I was once in a relationship with someone who was an alcoholic. I wasn’t aware of the alcoholism until we were a few months in and the relationship didn’t last because of that, but even months after our title change, I found myself unable to escape in their orbit. There were a myriad of reasons including circumstance, interconnected-friendships, and our proximity to each other, but mostly I was tangled in it because my heart is wired to help. Despite the fact I was being taken advantage of, had been embarrassed publically many times, and our being connected was actively hindering my ability to connect with other people, I was so focused on helping and being supportive that I let my self fall into disrepair.

I eventually woke up to the fact our relationship had to die and in doing so, part of me had to as well. It wasn’t healthy for either party and I had to be the one who nailed that coffin shut. It wasn’t going to happen any other way. I knew I was doing the right thing but my heart ached and I felt guilty for walking away. I felt like I was abandoning someone and when I stood my ground and severed that tie, I was informed that was exactly what I was doing via a fit of anger and mudslinging. It felt like my helper-heart had been duped and that felt like death.

Yet on the other side of that pain was a rebirth of freedom. There was a new day with new possibilities, free from the reach of the person who’d caused such pain. I know that sounds like frou-frou, hippy dippy nonsense but it’s not. It didn’t happen in a neat little three-day timetable like Easter, but it happened. The part of me that needed resurrecting—the optimism, the joy, the me in me—came back to life and the parts that needed to stay in the ground—the feeling obligated to help, to show up, to be responsible for this grown adult who hurt me time and time again—stayed in the ground. I didn’t dig them back up (which is the metaphorical way of saying I didn’t respond to any more texts) and life bloomed in me again.

Here’s the rub: sometimes life is a shit show. There’s just no way around it. Work sucks, friendships crumble or shift, families are difficult, dreams don’t come true in the timing we’d prefer, and God seems neither here nor there; perhaps out for coffee in another city leaving us to fend for ourselves against the Dementors (the people who are out to steal our joy, our smile, and our spirits). But we’re Easter people. We’re created that way. We’re created to exist in a constant state of rebirth and renewal. That’s a daily, intentional, and decisive practice and sometimes we have to force ourselves to let things die so our Easter can take place. There can be no resurrection a without there being a death first.

The internet tells me the cellular turnover rate in our bodies is between 50 and 70 billion cells a day. Science was never my strong suit, neither was learning math or Spanish, but that’s a giant amount of our bodies that die and resurrect each day. Rebirth is literally in our makeup.

In that same way, every day provides us with an opportunity to walk in newness.

My day yesterday wasn’t great. I received a rejection from a potential literary agent, I worried about things far outside of my control all day long, someone I care about was really tacky to me, and my morning coffee was barely a notch above swill. But waking up today was an opportunity for something new. I didn’t have to walk in that rejection or those worries or those hurtful words. I could choose to reset in the light of a new moment or I could choose to dwell in and among the things that hurt me. I’m an Easter person so I chose newness.

The Day After Easter isn’t just about the discounted candy (though that’s a big part of it and what are you doing? Go get it now before it’s gone!), it’s about the first day post-rebirth, post-renewal, post-resurrection of ourselves. It’s about new starts.

It’s about the first day of freedom.

Ryan’s book of essays, I Feel God in This Cab, is available here. 

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