“He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:18
Easter morning has dawned. I pray every day the significance of the empty tomb, the promise fulfilled, the risen Christ.
The Easters of my life, have come in stages of age and understanding. As a girl, my Easter expectations were of a new Sunday-best spring outfit with shoes, hat, gloves and dress. Maybe a stuffed bunny, but always an egg hunt. As a mom and grandma, I was the one footing the bill for the clothes and candy, and I did so with joy, hoping my happiness would somehow translate into a message I hardly could understand myself. Truth is, more often than not, I was more stressed by my own self-reliance than happy.
I seemed to arrive at the day with just a tinge of the “yeah, yeah, yeah,” “uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh,” bought the shoes, ate my fair-share of Peeps, sort of did what we always do.
Several years ago, though, I came to a new understanding and hope, a new kind of different. Now I skip the shoes. Since I stand two hours before Sunday school, serving breakfast to the homeless and hungry, I wear sneakers to church. I’m a lot more about walking the walk and a whole lot less about suffering because my new shoes make my feet hurt and not one bit about adding another pair of shoes to a pile of what I thought were sensible, comfortable, stylish shoes that really aren’t so much.
I realized with a great clarity what had been my problem with and about Easter services for too many years to count.
I knew the scripture. I thought I comprehend its meaning, but year after year I would limp home and let the significance of the message and the urgency of its implications go back into the closet with the shall-not-be-worn-again shoes.
What changed was that as a Sunday school class member, and a member of a life group at our church, I’ve had the blessing of studying a number of Adam Hamilton’s books, two in particular that are about Christ’s crucifixion: “Final Words from the Cross,” and “24 Hours that Changed the World.”
They say knowledge is suddenly understanding something you’ve known all along. That’s what happened to me.
Suddenly there was an obvious reason for me to alter my life and behavior toward others, a goal for living with an application of faith because I understood in a new way the purpose of Christ’s coming to earth, suffering, death and ultimate rising from the dead.
But of all the things I thought I knew, there are realizations that in the course of the studies I came to ultimately understand like I had never understood before.
One huge soul-soothing impact lesson is all the earthly trials and tribulations, pain and suffering of this world can be soothed and overridden in the garden that is beyond. Christ knew what was going to happen to end his life here. He accepted it as it happened and finished what He came to do to prove there was a life hereafter.
In the process, He asked for the forgiveness of those who tortured and persecuted Him, for the simple reason, “they know not what they do.”
Why can’t I do likewise and be as forgiving? I struggle, for sure, but it’s imperative that I try.
Perhaps my most take-my-breath-away understanding came with Hamilton’s explanation of Jesus’s promise to the thief who was being crucified beside him on the cross.
“Today you will be with me in paradise.”
As Hamilton wrote, there was no cross examination of the thief’s past, no notice that if only the man had been baptized, done thus and so and acted accordingly.
“This thief had faith the size of a mustard seed, and it was enough,” Hamilton wrote.
In that, more than anything else I can compare it to, I found a wonderful sense of hope.
It is a hope I believe in completely. It is what I know fully. Everything else is collateral.
One tiny part of that collateral is the fact God’s not impressed when I limp. Hurting feet aren’t even in the equation and all these years I had been confused. Suffering is one thing, but limping just because the shoes are uncomfortable are something else altogether again.
God has a bigger plan.
Editor’s note: Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.