My relationship to holidays and special occasions has always been a bit fraught. A special day means special planning. Buying gifts. Making food. Doing rituals. Behind all of that lies the prospect of disappointing people I love. Between my low energy, anxiety and OCD/ADD tendencies, holidays feel more like hell than happiness.
But now, there’s a new twist.
Back in November 2016, I started attending a Unitarian Universalist church. I had hoped to find a Christian universalist church, but those are even more rare. The UU church offered me a haven for my hurting heart and tired soul. After everything I had experienced under evangelicalism, I needed a place where I could just BREATHE. No expectations or quid pro quo. And more than two years later, I still find myself there. I’ve gotten “plugged in” (as the jargon goes), serving on the Adult Education Committee and doing presentations at their Sunday morning forum. And though most of the congregation is atheist or agnostic, they have embraced me as one of their own…even encouraging me to speak about my faith.
You can imagine that, with a congregation that’s largely non-theistic, Christian holidays take on a different dimension. Yes, there are Christmas Eve services, Easter egg hunts, and other rituals that you might find at any typical southern church. But there’s also Passover Seder, solstice celebrations, and a few Native American traditions. The Scriptural Reasoning class includes Muslims, Christians and Jews all discussing their particular holy book. So Easter, in particular, tends to be pretty light on the “Jesus died to save us” narrative.
(Honestly, I don’t know what today’s sermon was about, because I was at the Sunday forum talking about the medical discrimination Black Americans endure in our country. If you thought the crucifixion was a heavy topic…whew!)
But I’ve been thinking…what does it mean for me to be a Unitarian Universalist on Easter? I can tell you, going UU has not been my most popular decision. Several of my evangelical friends have lamented that I’m not being actively “shepherded” in the theology of Jesus. My pastor isn’t watching out for my soul to ensure I’m not led astray by some crazy heresy. (Even worse, he’s probably teaching a few.) But you know what? I’ve been led for years by different pastors. It didn’t ensure my spiritual health, especially when one or two of those pastors went completely off the rails. I always thought it was *my* responsibility as a disciple to search out the Scriptures, pray, and be obedient to the Spirit. Jesus is ultimately my shepherd.
Today, as I drove home from church after our community garden dedication and Easter egg hunt, I reflected on Easter Sundays past. Because my family was fundamentalist, there weren’t many egg hunts to speak of. When there were, it was dyed hard-boiled eggs, not plastic shells filled with candy. I wore my whitest, frilliest dress and a hat. My church put on a passion play where the focus was always on the cross. The resurrection seemed like an afterthought.
I need a resurrection. I need it deep in my bones, rising like the sap in the blossoming trees that scream from every corner, “Winter is over! The Light has dawned again!” I need to feel life coursing through my veins. I need to know that the power that raised Jesus is strong enough to raise me, too – no matter where I am on this earth or in my spiritual journey.
I don’t know where I am currently, but I do know that I’m healing, slowly but surely. And that’s more than I’ve been able to say in a long time.