Yesterday, on Easter, I wore a new cotton dress to worship. I dried my hair and straightened it. I wore makeup. I did this because on Easter I like to dress for the feast, to anticipate the day of the second resurrection as I celebrate the first. On Easter I dress like a lady going to a wedding.
My husband and I spent all day Friday getting our house ready for a giant party Sunday night. We mowed and pulled weeds. We painted the back door. We cleaned all the rooms. We hung lights outside and filled the flower beds with mulch and repotted plants. We put up a giant table, set for 31 people, and decorated with candles and flowers. Beautiful.
Justin started making Sunday’s dinner on Thursday, driving down to Austin to get lamb from a good butcher. He marinated it for two days and braised it for two hours. He used upwards of twenty ingredients just to make the meat taste right.
Friday night we worshipped God with 2,000 Christians from our city. We set up right outside our city hall and the praise was so loud and raucous you could hear it from the interstate. My daughter stood on a chair holding hands with another little girl, a complete stranger, a sister in Christ, belting out "The Lord’s Prayer" as we all, every one of us, sang it with hope and conviction.
Saturday night I sat on the edge of a twin bed blanketed in aqua colored “fur” and told my daughters, London and Eve, the story of the fall and the curse, the terrible distance between God and His children, and God’s persistent pursual of His people even when His people ran away. We ended with the cross, and in the morning before dawn we started back up with the story of the resurrection. Like we always do, we sat outside and waited for the sun to rise as we read from Luke and sang 10,000 Reasons.
I watched my daughter’s face turn from navy blue to golden peach.
Sunday night, sitting at that long table with friends, we shared stories of the most beautiful things we’d ever seen. We counted our blessings and pointed to the places we’d most recently seen God work. Our daughters stood on their chairs and offered toasts. We raised glasses and proclaimed, “Thank You, God! We love it.”
Last week I wore a t-shirt and ripped jeans to church, my hair wet because I hadn’t had time to dry it. I threw makeup on between Bible class and worship. This week, feeling a great deal more polished, I realized on the way into the building that I’d forgotten to paint my half-peeled toenails.
My husband and I spent all day Friday getting our house ready for a giant party Sunday night, a party that sometimes feels like too much work. We had 11 friends who decided not to come after saying they could (totally legit reasons but still sad). We worked for hours and hours and when we were done we stood on our back porch and said, “This will have to do,” knowing that our front door had no knob (it’s a very old house and door knobs aren’t so easy to replace) and the back door (which would be opened more than a 100 times at the party) stuck every single time you tried to open it.
Justin cooked lamb for days but forgot to salt it. I forgot to buy the onions he’d intended to pickle. And he forgot to make the sauce.
Friday night we worshipped with 2,000 Christians right in the middle of downtown and while it was beautiful and holy, I was often distracted by difference. My eldest daughter thought it was too loud and put a quilt over her head for the first half. She fell asleep for the second.
Saturday night I told my daughters the story of the fall and the cross and it was exactly as perfect as I hoped it would be. But ten minutes before they’d been fighting over who was allowed to touch which toy. In the morning they’d fight over who got which spot in the bathtub.
Sunday morning, outside, watching the sun rise, meditating on Jesus’ resurrection, Eve would be distracted by the cat and London would find some part of the story inexplicably hilarious and giggle for the next five minutes.
I did watch my daughter’s face turn from navy blue to golden peach. But I can’t say I watched the whole time. I looked away often.
On Sunday night with our people, so many of the people we most love, watching, I tripped over the extension cord to the outdoor lights and fell flat on the ground. Later a child ran a big wheels car into the pole holding up the lights and the pole fell down and smacked my friend on the head, leaving a remarkable and lasting welt.
This is life in the kingdom of God on earth. Dappled.
It’s light in the dark. Not just light. Not just dark.
We’re like children in the woods with a flashlight at night, the light bouncing and glancing. The light is good and true, but sometimes we forget to point it at the path and sometimes we drop it and never is it as perfect and full as the sun.
Gerard Manley Hopkins writes in his poem “Pied Beauty”:
“Glory be to God for dappled things/Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)/With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;/He fathers-forth”
That is my life--adazzle and dim. Fickle and freckled.
I am becoming. I am sometimes already and so often not yet. And so is this world around me, even this kingdom of God on earth.
Every day is crammed full of light and every day unfolds in the valley of the shadow of death.
It’s not just that good things happen and bad things happen. It’s not that random or accidental or even ultimately inevitable. It’s more that we’re people stumbling in the direction of light while living in the dark. The years in service to the kingdom grow brighter, each Easter of mine dawning with a greater saturation and longer exposure. But somehow, as the light gets brighter, the dark gets darker, the contrast turned up. It’s like being under a tree on a really sunny day, sun streaming between the leaves. Life is polka dotted.
What we want, what we crave in or deepest parts, is perfection, order, beauty, excellence. What we get? Perfection and imperfection, order and chaos, beauty and boredom, excellence and failure. Life in Christ is a clean house and a broken house, a child who loves well and loves poorly, standing for a toast and tripping over a cord. For the people of God the "and" is the gift. That and the hope that one day all will be light
On Sunday night at that dinner, Justin talked about caterpillars and butterflies. He said the caterpillar and the butterfly could not be more different, that even in the pupa there is no intermediate, evolutionary form that ties the two creatures together. The caterpillar entirely dissolves inside the pupa into a gooey protoplasmic soup and from that soup the butterfly is born. But at the same time, every butterfly was once a caterpillar and every caterpillar will one day be a butterfly (should it not get eaten by a bird). Scientists have shown that butterflies actually carry memories from their time as caterpillars, liking or disliking the same smells, for example, as they liked or disliked in their earlier form. Inside that gooey soup, scientists find cells for both the caterpillar form and the butterfly form, proving that every caterpillar is carrying around inside it all the parts it will eventually need to grow wings.
I find hope in the truth that every caterpillar is becoming a butterfly and every butterfly was once a caterpillar. And in knowing that even now I have butterfly parts.
I see them sometimes peaking out, color flashing in the corner of my eye when I’m generous or kind, selfless or creative. I see my husband’s butterfly self so often. I see butterflies in my friends at church, in my family members, in my neighbors, and in my kids.
Of course, I see the caterpillar in them, too. But it would be wrong to call them, us, caterpillars, because that’s not all we are. We’re both. We’re becoming. We are and are about to be.
We read from Revelation Sunday night, read John’s beautiful description of the transformation that’s coming, the future we’ll inherit, living with God in forever light, no tears, healing in the fruit we eat beside the water of life. John says, “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” John writes down Jesus’ words from the throne: “I am making everything new!” and “Look, I am coming soon.”
I read those words and I remember with hope what’s coming, even in the partial darkness of what is. I pray, longing for an eternal dawn, “Lord, come quickly.”