A different kind of Easter (2020) – Jemma Basham
Easter this year has been different. I set off for my early morning run with the sound of nature deafening and traffic noise virtually on mute. I was able to watch many birds that are usually too shy to hang around. I could study the elusive jay, stand and stare at the heron, see the blackbird up close. It was as if they were not as afraid of me now fear has swept our world and left us defenseless and vulnerable.
A handful of cars passed me and I caught sight of people wearing masks sat in them. The church I used to call home was locked as I ran past. Yes this Easter Sunday was certainly different. There would be no bleary eyed trips to the highest part of town, to worship as the sun rose today. There would be no jubilant trips to church with the kids wearing Easter outfits, excitedly preparing for the egg hunt. Instead I was running alone in a virtually deserted place that I had called home for over twenty years but now felt strangely unfamiliar.
If you are reading this you are probably like me and have some mental concentration, so perhaps you are a little bit removed from those being devastated by the virus. However, even if this is true this deadly, silent killer will probably still be coming too close to you for comfort. The weather is beautiful and spring is bursting forth, but no matter how brightly the sun shines there is a shadow over our enjoyment of it and over our quiet times.
This morning I saw from a distance an old friend on the trail who lost her Dad two weeks ago and is having to grieve alone. This afternoon I spoke with a neighbour, broken hearted, by the loss of a dear friend. There wasn’t a ventilator for him when he arrived in hospital and he died too quickly for them to help him. He died alone and my neighbour is grief stricken and angry and frightened.
How to cope?
Coronavirus came so quickly into our world but it has stayed and looks to be staying for a while. When I spoke to my neighbour, he asked me how I was coping. I have four young children and ageing parents. I worry for them of course I do. People used to ask me that question during other times of suffering and I would resent the question. I am a Christian, I worship a God who I believe wants much more for me than coping. He wants me to thrive, not merely survive, to have hope, to hold fast to joy even in the midst of dark times. But right now I think I am just coping. I love my family time, seeing the kids grow up and bond, the sense of strength that the family being in isolation is bringing. But the death toll and the stream of news of the suffering is hard to bear so coping is a pretty good word to use.
My answer to how I am coping is that I have a faith and I gain strength because we are all in this together. The two are intertwined. I learned a few years ago the healing that we can experience from sharing our experiences of suffering. We are all locked down, so no matter how isolated we are we are still in this together and we share our feelings with every person in the world. Sharing and being understood by someone in our human experience is vital for our mental health. So when we clap on our doorsteps or share posts on community social media we are healing ourselves mentally through the sense of solidarity and the normality we create for each other.
However, there is so much more than that at work for me and I don’t want to hold it back. It is like I am tapping into a secret reservoir of strength and everywhere around me I see thirsty people. Today is Easter Sunday and I look to Jesus to lead the way for my strength, for my peace and for my protection. I am loved and I am understood and it refreshes me and holds me steady during these times. It can hold you steady too. My prayer for anyone who reads this is that you too will do the same because there is more than enough for all of us. I would never usually post, blog or make myself vulnerable in social media circles. But how can I hold back now when people are risking their very lives to help each other and so many people are dying each day?
‘Consider the birds of the air’ (Matthew 6:26)
So I just want to ask you when you next see a bird, take some time out to study it and delight in it. Practice mindfulness and notice the beauty of the world around you and at the same time consider what Jesus has done. Give him just a thought about how he can help you through this.
If you are like me you may well have been hurt or damaged by the experience of living in this broken world. You may be left with scars and memories that won’t go away. People may not understand, but Jesus understands you. He rose again and showed his friends the scars as if to say he knows we will have them but we can still celebrate, perhaps celebrate even more so because of what we have been through.
If you are like me, you may have experienced the disorientating betrayal of a closest friend. You may struggle to forgive and move on into the fullness of the life you had before betrayal, it’s hard to know who to trust. He knows what that feels like, he shared his whole life with Judas who sold him and betrayed him with kiss. He knows that searing pain of betrayal.
If you are like me right now, you may not be able to sleep and may wrestle in the shadows with real or imagined fears. Jesus understood that too. He stayed awake and prayed through the dead of the night in the garden of Gethsemane in great distress. We know he understands even that human experience.
If you are like me, you may have been hurt by a stranger or a set of circumstances you never imagined. A suffering unexpected and unpredictable in its impact on you and your recovery. Jesus also knows that suffering too. The pain of strangers spitting at him, mocking him, humiliating him, beating him and stripping him of his physical strength. He said nothing to save himself and then hanging on the cross brutalised and bleeding he prayed for God to forgive the people who did it to him.
It doesn’t matter what the suffering, Jesus has been there before us. We are not suffering this alone we have Jesus to lead us on. He knows what this life can throw at us and he promises us he will be with us always and that nothing can separate us from Him. Covid-19 maybe wreaking havoc with our world but our souls are in safe hands.
So despite the crushing pain of loss, my grieving friends can turn their lights out tonight physically alone but with Jesus by their sides. This love holds us steady and there is more than enough for all of us. As this strange Easter day draws to a close, my prayer is that more people will know the peace that passes all understanding, see the hope that we can find in Jesus and experience the healing that only He can bring in this troubled time.
God bless Jemma x