Emma was a dear saint that I used to visit. I would bring my daughter along with me when she still fit in her portable car seat (this was about 6 years ago). Before Easter one year she gave me a sweet little book (it was a glorified pamphlet really) full of prayers, poems, and verses from Easter hymns. She died later on that year.
Every year I pull that little book out around Easter. It has pictures of flowers on it. The pages are faded and slightly torn. The poems and prayers are a little corny but I liked the hymns in it. I probably would never purchase this book, but I like it because it reminds me of Emma, the laughter we shared, the white wine she kept in her fridge that she had me pour for us both when I came over to visit her. The last year of her life she had a live-in nurse named Loraine who also loved Emma dearly and we developed a friendship. Loraine even came to church a few times after Emma was gone.
This year I looked up and down my shelves for that little book and could not find it. I know I had it last year since I remember paging through it the Saturday night before. That was the day my grandmother died. I remembered Emma as looked through the pages as I wept for my grandmother and got ready for Easter morning. It is odd sometimes where death and life meet and at that intersection of pathways we see not only the cross but a tomb that is empty.
I could not find the little book, but I felt a certain peace about it. No scurrying around or getting frantic about it either. I neither spent a great deal of time pulling books off of shelves nor rummaging through my desk (which as an aside – my desk could probably use some rummaging). Instead I felt a certain peace about losing it. Is the book still in my office somewhere? Probably, but I feel OK with not finding it. Even if I never find it, which is a real possibility, I am also at peace with that too.
It dawned on me that as I quickly got over misplacing this small treasure of my past that Easter can be less about regaining something lost as it can be about letting go, and waiting for what comes next. Since reclaiming my glasses a few weeks ago I’ve kept them near my side most of the time; yet without fail I still lose them constantly. I also know reading glasses can be easily replaced. But other things – often more important things than books or glasses – like the friendships or family members we have said goodbye to by death or changing circumstances – stir up in us an emotion of trying to hold on to them as if everything depended upon it. Maybe it is the fear of letting go that scares us most.
I wonder how those disciples felt – not just as Jesus was executed (Gut-wrenching loss? Fear? Anger? Despair?) and how they felt on Easter Sunday (Shock? Surprise? Something else?), but what I am most curious about is how they felt after he went on his way back to his Father at the Ascension. He said goodbye, he gave them his peace, he promised the Holy Spirit to come, he sent them into the world, and he left.
Was it loss they felt? Was it bewilderment? Was it lack of purpose or direction? I don’t think so. I’m speculating, but I think they felt somewhat at peace with a new kind of resolve. It was the kind of resolve that came from outside of themselves rather than from an inner reserve that needed some prodding. They were not losing something, they had found something new they had never counted on before, but somehow changed everything. The resurrection does that to people. Easter does something to us. That doesn’t mean the mission they were called to would be easy or that the days to come would not bring trouble – of course they did. (Our lives are full of trouble too.) But somehow the peace given in the promise that “Christ is risen and has gone on ahead of you” (Mark 16: 6-7) carried them through. They waited for what came next and embraced it, knowing his peace as never before.
Like them, we wait too for the promise.
Christ is risen! He has gone on ahead of us. He leads us on, but has not left us, as he encourages us to step into each day knowing his peace is always with us wherever we go, or whatever we may have lost.
Do I miss my little book? Not really. I do miss Emma. I miss all the people I love who have died. But filling that void is something greater. It is a peace that only Christ can give. He fills it with himself. Jesus who died is risen from the dead. “He is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14).
My hope for you is that this “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7) carries you through whatever it is that is weighing on you – loss and heartache, diagnosis and treatment, losing little things (perhaps never finding them), and remembering those who taught us well, but are no longer here. The promise of Easter is not just that we regain what was lost – but that we gain something new entirely. Books can come and go. Circumstances can come and go. Even relationships can come and go. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of the Lord stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). Stop scurrying. No more rummaging. Our new future awaits us. Jesus is waiting for us to take part in it. Let’s go.
Peace be with you.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”