I started writing this piece on Monday—the day it was due. I wrote one paragraph when the news of a death in our community came through.
I asked for an extension.
It’s Easter week, and I was prepared to write about Jesus; but that bad news stopped me in my tracks. It’s one thing to believe something in your heart or in your mind or even in your day-to-day living, but to broadcast it as something others should consider for their own lives—well, you’d better be pretty sure it’s a well-woven net before you encourage somebody else to jump headlong into it. And when I get news of a death, I have to take a minute to reevaluate things. Just being honest. Here’s what I had written when I stopped and asked for more time:
In the last week-to-ten-days, I have been in conversations with friends, family, and acquaintances who are deep in the weeds of hard living. Here’s the thing: I didn’t go out looking for these conversations. This is real life, and it’s bubbling out of people’s words. Grandparents with full blown Alzheimer’s—and all that that brings with it. Pre-pubescent children struggling with debilitating anxiety. Marriages crumbling. People who are confused about their gender (and no matter where a person stands on this politically or morally, to be confused about who you are is never a good feeling). Rampant homelessness, or something that looks like it. Storms that ravage neighborhoods and communities. Porn addictions. Three overturned tractor trailers on the side of the road on my recent trip to Nashville.
What is happening?!
I have no idea what flips an eighteen-wheeler (much less, three!) or what causes Alzheimer’s or where a marriage starts to fracture in the ways that devastate. Not a single one of these things is brand new for humanity. But they are all hard. Really, really hard. Even still, as hard as they are, they may not be as devastating as a death (perhaps they rival it though).
This is why I had to stop writing. I was planning to write about Easter and about how the message of Easter brings light to the dank corners of drug abuse and sleeplessness and childhood anxiety. But if Easter isn’t true in the ugliest place—the graveside—then it’s not true in the hospital room. Or in the therapist’s waiting room. Or in the 9th grade locker room.
Easter is about Jesus dying and then rising from the dead on our behalf. It sounds normal to me because I think about it every day and find life in the Truth of it, but even as I think about how it might come across to readers in our current cultural climate, it sounds a little crazy. I’m almost hesitant to mention it. But it’s the ultimate story of hope and good and peace and beauty. It’s the story behind all of the other stories. It’s the one that makes some kind of sense of all this mess.
Because it is the story the ends death.
If I believe there’s a true story like that, how can I not share it with my readers? God made us, and he loves us. Deeply. Adam and Eve, our parents way-way-way back did the one and only thing he told them not to do, thereby flipping God the middle-finger and saying, “We don’t trust you. We’re doing things our way.” And he said, “Then go. But I’m coming after you, because I love you. Watch and see.” They had to leave his presence because he is hope and good and peace and beauty. And people have chosen the opposite ever since.
Eventually, God did come to get us. He came by sending his Son, Jesus. He came here—to where we are—to this place full of abuse and arrogance, hatred and hypocrisy, disease and death. He didn’t mess up like we did. No middle finger. No distrust. No declarations of knowing better. He did ask once that God would do things differently as he was staring down a hard death. But ultimately, he left it in his Father’s hands.
Not my will, but yours be done.
He was killed on a cross where I should have been because I was the one who rebelled—not him. He was beaten and mocked instead of me. He had the nails in his hands and feet instead of me. He hung naked on a tree instead of me. All of his ‘instead of’s’ are offered in exchange for mine.
Easter is the best morning of all the mornings because it reminds us that when we hide our lives in Jesus’s story by lowering our proverbial middle-finger and putting our trust in him instead of ourselves, the curse is reversed. Death no longer has the final say. Because he was both God and man, he was raised from the dead three days later (Easter) and that’s why we don’t have to move away from him anymore like Adam and Eve did. Instead, we get to move toward him—and toward his hope and good and peace and beauty. A real relationship with God requires humble submission to him in our own hearts, and asking for his forgiveness for every moment of arrogance we have ever lived (and all that has come from that posture of pride). All of human history, mine included, is chock-full of these moments.
I hope I’ve been sensitive to all of the hard things people are walking through right now. I’ve got some too. Life is harder than it’s ever been in my 43 years and it’s not just because I’m getting older. But there is good news—the best news—for those who lower their haughty heart and put their trust in Jesus’s work on the cross. It won’t always be so dark or hard or dank or ugly. Because for those who trust him, heaven waits ahead, and until then, a relationship with him now is full of real, deep, abiding life.
And I can personally testify that the weaving on that net holds.
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:7-8
Candace Echols is a Midtown resident, wife, and mother of five. She has written for StoryBoard’s Page One Writing Workshops, and writes in quiet moments from her yellow chair. Candace recently published her first book, the children’s book Josephine and the Quarantine, and now writes a column for The Daily Memphian.