Saturday, March 26, 2005

Chasing the Rabbits of Easter

Chuck, in his blog, The World According to Chuck, wrote today about the loss of his father, about how the grief changes as time wears on, but it never really leaves you. At least that is what I heard him saying.

But then again, I have this habit of missing the main point entirely and zeroing in on a few lines that are not an integral part of what is being written, but practically shout to be lifted out of a piece and scrutinized more closely…Okay, so I have a skewed view and I waste a lot of time chasing rabbits.

Here is the rabbit I need to chase,

I went to Easter service two years ago and cried, I was so scared. It's hard to be scared on Easter; it doesn't make sense. Still, I was in bad shape. I would get worse. I am better now.”

Last Easter, I (and my family) was in bad shape. My teen-age son was in a drug rehab facility, and we spent the day visiting with him. He was still a bit moody about being in rehab, but we all made the best of things and had a good visit in spite of the circumstances.

Following Chuck’s pattern, I (and my family) have gotten worse. But, to be fair, it isn’t just Chuck’s pattern. It is the pattern of life, really. Only, up until the last few years, I lived in such an idealized fairy-tale world that I could never have imagined the ongoing heartbreak that would come into my life in the last few years, never could have imagined myself in bad shape, and getting worse.

But, to get back on track, this Easter, I (and my family) have gotten worse. Right now my son is struggling in a relapse. It feels like we are back at square one, and the upward climb looks rough, to say the least. I have hard and complicated decisions facing me. And I come to Easter, the most glorious and hopeful of all seasons, scared to death, and with very little hope. It doesn’t make sense.

Though it does not look like it, the truth is I do have a hope, a hope that is not rooted in the outcome of my son’s struggles with substance abuse, a hope that is of more substance than fairy tale endings, and the absence of conflict in one’s life. I am reminded of the verse in Hebrews (11:1, I believe), “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.”

There will be lot of Christians who will celebrate Easter in relative comfort and peace. I will only speak of myself here, but for so many years, that is how I celebrated Easter, with no real heartbreak in my life. With everything going my way, what was there not to celebrate about Easter?

This past Thanksgiving, when my son was in a program designed to help him turn his life around, and it looked like he was finally getting it, and having hope for himself, I was so grateful to God for new beginnings. Yet, in the back of my mind, the nagging question was, if it all caves in tomorrow, will I still be grateful? In church, we sang How Great Thou Art, and I was crying, thinking how easy it is to sing that song when our children are excelling at school, when we have the money to provide for their healthcare, when we know they are prepared to face the world in a healthy manner. Those things are no longer true in my life. Can I still sing How Great Thou Art? Can I still be grateful? Can I still rest in a “peace that passes all understanding”? Yes, yes I can, most days, that is.

But the added benefit, the real sparkle to my own gem of disappointment is a new appreciation, and compassion, for the many people around me who quietly suffer their own disappointments, the ones who may just feel that the church has no place for them. I feel so badly about all the years that I lived in my own sanctimonious little Christian world, the one where good Christians did not have problems with their children, the one where good Christians were rewarded for their goodness and their faith, the one where good Christians never, ever, strayed, or had doubts, or messy lives. There are a lot of hurting people out there, people who fly “under the radar” and go unnoticed in their loneliness and their pain. I knew about those hurting people once, even when I myself was not hurting, when I was younger, but I grew up, and got comfortable in my own happy little world.

I don’t know for sure all that I am trying to say here. I am probably trying to say too many things at once. If I were speaking out loud, I would probably drawl it out in my slow Southern way and use bad grammar for emphasis: I think I’m fixin’ to enter a whole new ball game where my Christianity is concerned. The only thing I know for sure is, I don’t need no game face for this game.

Part of what I am saying is that if you are hurting this Easter, dare to take your game face off, and let someone see your pain. I know have a real problem acting like I believe this, but I really do think it is true that God did not intend for us to suck it up and bear our burdens all alone (the verse “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” comes to mind). If you are in a church where they just don’t recognize your brand of pain, shop around and find a church that does acknowledge your pain. It is hard work, church shopping, and it may take some time, but I do believe there are churches out there that are doing it right in terms of reaching out to hurting people, and I am confident that God will lead you to one of them.

The other part of what I am saying is that if you are one of those who, for whatever reason, at this moment, are “too blessed to be stressed”, well, good for you, but take your damn game face off. You know good and well that you have had your moments of messiness and doubt too. Quit trying to look like nothing ever goes wrong for you in your Christian walk.

And if you are really deep in delusion and you think that you will never have any problems because you are just too devoted to God and His ways, ask God to open your eyes to the suffering of those around you, if you dare.

Whew. In a few minutes, I will worry that I have offended someone or that I should have not been so open in my writing today but I am better now.
At least for the moment.


  1. Dear Annie,
    We have more in common than you know. First of all doors...doors, gates, arches...ways in the making. I've loved these symbols for years. Signs of hope, of transition, of time passing. Well, that's one thing.
    The other, and more important in every way, is that our 25 year old daughter will soon celebrate her first year of sobriety after a better than ten years struggle with addictions. We all realize, and she more than any of us, how hard won and how tenuous that sobriety is.
    I know what torment this journey can be. I have truly felt abandoned by God, which is after all, one of the themes of Good Friday. Sounds like you are still there and not at Resurrection Morning yet. It sounds like you are finding ways to make this okay for yourself, even in weeping. If you want to email me, I'm at and am willing to share.

  2. I think your post was very poignant and heartfelt and couldn't offend anyone. I could have written your post at any number of years in my life, including this one. Although the calendar says it is Easter, we may be still struggling in the tomb, and that is when faith can be worn down by the constant repetition of unanswered prayers.

    I offer my prayers for you, Annie, and for your family. I've been both the sanctimonious Christian and the voice crying in the wilderness. Remember that whatever happens, you will always have inside your true, sacred self and nothing can take that from you.

    May the peace of the Paschal Mystery remain with you always.

  3. great Post, Annie! Getting worse, getting better... thank you for opening this part of yourself on your blog.

  4. Beautifully written and so honest. I lift up my prayers for your son, that you would all be surrounded by the strength only a tempted Lord can offer. May your son walk into a place of wholeness and victory where this concerned, and I pray a peace over you, his mother.

    You're a good mom.


  5. Annie -- one of my favorite sayings for tough times comes from Joseph Campbell, interpreting a Buddhist philosophy. (Note -- I am not Buddhist! gotta clear that one up!) Still, the words are a beautiful statement that can be applied, no matter what your faith: "... the joyful participation in the sorrows of the world."

  6. oh, annie -- (((annie))) i am sorry i am just now getting respond to this. i am hopeful you are further along in healing since this was written.

    i personally have a hard time with folks who go around with the mantra "too blessed to be stressed" - too blind to see, really. i am not trying to steal anyone's blessings, believe me. i just think that type of attitude means you haven't opened yourself up to what God wants to do in you.

    i am not delusional. i know the more i press in, the more shit hits the fan, excuse the expression. what are we to do then, stop pressing? no. we are to build each other up in the body.

    we are to be there for others when our time is over (for that moment) and before the next trial begins for ourselves. in giving of ourselves, that's when we receive (sorry, bad paraphrase of the song of st. francis).

    i was really looking forward to Easter this year because i thought it would be the definitive end to my mourning over bruce. it wasn't, but that's okay. i am learning to rely more and more on God's grace for the moment and not look for much more than that.

    annie, i can't help but feel you are entering into a new phase of your walk with Jesus. it's not comfortable, going through. it's not always sunny, coming out the other side. oft times, i don't even realize i've come out the other side until i say "gee, i guess i am doing better today, i didn't cry once!!

    i wish i had better words of encouragement for you, sweet sister. i will light a candle and say a prayer for you, i know it helps. nrp = never refuse prayer.


  7. okay, it's me again - i was reading this before mass started this morning and it was laid on my heart to share with you; please take it for what it is worth...dorothy day was talking about about a Holy Thursday and then a reference to Easter and spring:

    Still, the sap is rising, again there is the resurrection of spring, God's continuing promise to us that He is with us always, with His comfort and joy, if we will only ask.

    i know that sounds simple, but it was for you, really.



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