How the season of Lent changed Easter for me

Although I knew what Easter represented, I don’t think I fully grasped the magnitude of the holiday until a few years ago. That’s the blind, innocent faith of a child who was lucky enough to be taught the bible from a young age. I guess I saw it like, well of course He rose from the dead. He’s God! That’s just what God DOES! Easter was God, but it was also candy and egg hunts and family. As things changed in my family, the “God part” got sort of glazed over. So did the family part. We grew up and had to go to work. Because the traditions that I had learned to associate with it faded, so did the feeling of importance.

(Disclaimer: I don’t mean to say that Lent is the only way to do Easter correctly. I was raised non-denominational Christian. I didn’t even understand what Lent was until I started working at McDonald’s and experienced Filet-o-Fish Fridays! This is just how experiencing Lent as a church changed my perception of Easter.)

It would be a long time before I found my way into the heart of the faith. The understanding that it’s not just God, it’s Jesus. It’s a MAN, who lived like we did but did it perfectly, who chose to do so even knowing he would die for us. For me! This is why I love to sit in a church and have the bible broken down line by line to wash over me. Hearing it puts it into such a different perspective!

I started going to The Flipside church in Rancho Cucamonga with my big sister, and life was never the same. It was there that I first experienced Lent, which I had never known non-catholics to do. I didn’t partake in all of the rules (I still ate meat on Fridays), but I performed my first ever fast. I gave up social media the first year, shopping the second. Total first world things, right? But mostly, I wanted to give up things I did to fill time. You don’t realize how strong your impulses are to pull out your phone or wander around Target until you can’t do it for 40 days. You definitely don’t realize how long 40 days will feel. I tried to fill that time with being more present and noticing my blessings. The Flipside does a bunch of amazing activities throughout this time. I made a point of trying to bring as many of my friends from work as possible that first year and it was such an unbelievable bonding experience. Johnny Rockets was feeling the LORD through that holiday weekend, let me tell you.

On Easter morning, we pulled up to the park for sunrise service in our PJs and worshipped at an hour I hadn’t even been awake to see in years. Our sweet family friends had us over to make breakfast together. It felt so whole. So this was why it’s a family holiday. I finally understood. Maybe life has been too all over the place to make lasting traditions just yet, but it’s nice to be reminded that there are traditions to be made.

I didn’t realize how much this connection had changed my understanding of Easter until I moved and got stuck in my bubble of working at home alone in a city where I knew pretty much no one. I wasn’t planning not to participate in Lent until I realized it was Ash Wednesday and I’d had no idea. I didn’t want to come up with something to fast on a whim, so I decided not to take part this year. I knew my heart wasn’t really in it with all the distractions. Without taking part, Easter snuck up and felt like it would be just another day. Lent really causes you to focus on the season. You are reminded, sometimes it feels like 20 times a day, of the reason you made the sacrifice. Of the sacrifice your small fast honors. Without it, and without those special family moments with the church, it’s easy to forget about how huge Easter is. How everything that defines your faith came to a head on this day.

I felt weird about Easter approaching without a plan, like I was going back on all the progress I’ve made in the last 3 years. As much as I’ve been hoping to find a church home in Vegas, I still haven’t done the work to look for one. I felt very far from home realizing I wouldn’t be with my family and especially my niece. But instead, I got to spend an amazing weekend spending one on one time and laughing a lot with my sister. We ate things that were terrible for us and sang worship songs in the car and cried together watching a video of my best friend’s husband getting baptized. When we got back to my apartment, my boyfriend had gotten us both flowers. This may be a transitional time, but this is home. Progress doesn’t always have to be a straight line, especially when it comes to your faith.

So I’m telling myself, be gentle on yourself with however your Holy days go, but don’t lose track of what your heart is truly after.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is make perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Cor. 12:9-10

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