I rose at 5:45 Easter Sunday, just as I’ve done for the past seven or eight years. I flipped on the hall light, knocked gently on each door and woke my children, one by one. “Good morning, handsome; it’s 5:45.” “Good morning, beautiful, time to rise and shine.” Having risen at the first sound of the alarm, I had time to quickly shower and apply the only makeup I ever wear: facial sunscreen, moisturizer, eyeliner and mascara, lip liner and all-day lip stain, and a few brushstrokes of mineral powder. All I had left to do was don my costume for the Easter Dawn pageant, rally the troops and head out for the sunrise event.
“Mom, I don’t think it’s mine, but I found where the Easter Bunny hid one of the baskets,” my youngest, recently-turned-thirteen-years old, son announced, a big grin on his face. I don’t recall what I replied, though I’m pretty sure I uttered some short dismissal, which I have since felt badly about. I really try to remember that he is still of the age to be enthusiastic about surprises and presents, unlike his older teenage siblings who are more into their friends and phones than wondering about what the pretending parents have put together in the namesake of the particular season’s make-believe…
Wow… that makes my children sound selfish. And ungrateful. Well, yes, they can be on occasion… Can’t we all be from time to time?
The truth is, my children can also be—and, thankfully, most often are—compassionate, courteous, selfless and thoughtful beings. They have non-begrudgingly given up their pre-dawn Easter anticipation and agreeably participated in the community’s Easter pageant. My oldest was ten or eleven when we began our tenure as play participants, my youngest around five or six, which puts my daughter around eight. Not once have they complained as we’ve all played our roles, sat down for the youth-group sponsored breakfast, and helped tear down the displays before heading back home about around nine. This year, a sense of admiration filled me as I watched my oldest load his truck with props and set panels, my daughter on a ladder masterfully operating a power screw driver, and my youngest helping another adult tear apart a piece of the set. We are far from alone in delaying holiday festivities—I know a number of families who rise before dawn Christmas day to participate in Arctic League deliveries to needy families. Years ago, one woman commented that her family had discussed taking a break from it for a year. One of her pre-teen children commented that “Christmas just won’t be the same if we don’t.” Still today, that youthful statement humbles me…
In addition, I am grateful, as are my children who (most of the time) seem to appreciate the item or two of some specialty clothing or video game they’ve been eyeing, along with the other little whatnots the rabbit tucks in among a few pastel and bunny-themed chocolates, jelly beans, Peeps, and malted milk balls… and the gas cards, for the teenage driver who has been lamenting how much money it takes to fill his tank! (he is learning just how expensive all that getting together and hanging out with friends can cost…)
But, getting back to the Easter morning, as we were saying goodbye to the long-time family friend who recruited us to participate in the pageant all those years ago and has been a part of the Pageant committee for more years than he can count, did something he’s never done before. “You know, if you ever want to switch churches, we’d love to have you as part of our congregation,” he said.
For an instant I was confused and surprised: Why would he say such a thing? He knows we don’t belong to a church, doesn’t he?
A rare occasion for me, I was able to think and respond quickly. “The world is our church,” I said as I lifted my arms at my sides and raised my palms to the skies. “We can offer up thanks and prayers wherever we are, whenever we want.” I moved my hand in a sweeping motion that took in the trees and shrubs and the pond that sits at the back of the outdoor area where we set up the stage.
That is my spirituality. Having witnessed hypocrisy among many church members, and a number of divided congregations–churches and friendships ripped apart– who could not manage to find some medium ground on issues, I have chosen to remove myself from organized religion… We are all one race, one being, and I also find it difficult when so many segregate themselves from others because of an inability to accept diversity…
Spirituality is one of the essences of our being—and it encompasses so much more than doctrine and scripture, it is the heart and soul of our mortal existence.
I love my church.