I remember Easter when I was a child. Every Easter morning, my family would wake up early (like zero dark thirty early), so we could go to the sunrise service at Palm Harbor United Methodist Church. My grandfather played Pilate in the church Passion Play. I can still see him with his one big line……”I wash my hands of this!” As a young child, I thought that was the coolest thing ever. As a teenager, I thought that Pepa/Pilate could wash his hands a little later….maybe 11ish.
Afterwards, we would go to church. The Passion play was just the introduction…..kind of the warm up. I remember my grandmother playing the piano, and on the rare occasion….singing a choir solo. We should pause here so I can tell you that Palm Harbor United Methodist Church was the site of my musical debut. I sang “Family of God” when I was 8. Imagine Laura Ingalls Wilder in all her bucktooth glory rocking the Methodists, and you’ve got the visual. However, this was also the site of my musical retirement. I figured it was best to walk away while I was on top.
Easter lunch at Mema’s was ham. Deviled Eggs. Green Bean casserole. Sweet Potato casserole. Regular Potato casserole. Broccoli Casserole. Cream of “anything” soup was our 6th food group. My cousin, Cindy, and I would grab all of Mema’s fabric remnants, ribbons, glue, and scissors, and transform L’eggs Pantyhose Eggs into bedazzled and blinged works of art. Brach’s jelly beans, pecan pie, and coconut cake fueled the day long sugar high.
But, more than anything else, I remember learning about Jesus. I learned early on that Jesus, the cross, and the resurrection were a thing. I learned about a Jesus that loved a stick skinny, straight haired, glasses wearing, buck toothed, painfully shy girl named Julie. I learned that in the midst of all Easter activity, the reality of Christ was a really big deal. And I was all in.
Those early experiences shaped the beginning of my spiritual journey. As I grew older, the innocent devotion of the child to Christ was challenged. I questioned. I argued. I doubted. I wondered if this Jesus was really all He was meant to be.
Unconditional love? Hmmm….maybe. Freedom through Christ? As long as I followed the rules…potentially. Forgiveness of sin? Probably only some of them.
But as my journey continued, Jesus continued to be constant. Never wavering. Showing me His truth. Proving that His promises are not only real, but life-changing. Walking with me when my journey was rocky and walking with me when my journey produced joy.
You may believe in Jesus. You may not.
But I know this.
I’m who I am because of Jesus. Every moment, every decision, every step of my journey…..involve Him. I’m not perfect….yet for an incomprehensible reason….He loves me anyway.
Easter is not about religion to me anymore. Easter is about celebrating my Friend, my Savior, my Lord, and His empty tomb…..
And the fact that this Jesus, and this girl, continue on this journey together.