let nothing be wasted

thoughts on grief and the goodness of God

When Easter became a really, really big deal

I grew up in a virtually perfect Christian family where God’s truth was instilled in me at a very young age. I have lived a few decades of Easters now and have read the gospel accounts of the cross and resurrection more times than I can count.

And while I have always believed every word to be true, and while the understanding of the need for a Savior and the beautiful gift of grace has shaped my faith and continually beckoned me into a deeper relationship with God over the years, I can still say I was missing something.

I took Easter for granted.

Not until death pounced upon my doorstep and bared its vicious fangs and mercilessly ripped my child away did the magnitude of what Christ did on the cross begin to be felt in the depths of my soul.

Death sneered at me as he attempted to capture my son, but as he turned to celebrate his conquest in this minor battle, he was face to face with a victorious King. Christ defeated him. And he defeated the power he holds. He makes the pain temporary. He makes the darkness fade.

Death, with its menacing grip and oppressive darkness, has no triumph in the light of Christ.

He came and threatened what was most dear to me and it almost feels sometimes as though he won. But. Christ’s victory is what captured Mason instead.

Easter has become a big deal because death has become a big deal. I have lived the terrifying oppression of death. It has permeated my reality, saturated every sense, and attempted to cripple my very existence. It has taken what is sacred and left me vulnerable and heartbroken.

The dark void left behind contains a pain too deep, too desperate for words.

But it is this very pain that amplifies the beauty of the cross.

Now that I have lived death, and have breathed it, and felt it surround my very soul, I now am able to live the hope of the cross with so much more clarity.

One of the most comforting verses I read after Mason died is found tucked in the simple parable of the rich man and Lazarus. “The poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the heavenly banquet.” Luke 16:22

Carried by angels.

When I feel stuck in this realm where death feels permanent, I read this.

When my world was collapsing, Mason was being carried by angels to the presence of God.

(Sidenote: I do not read picture Bibles to my kids where angels are depicted as wimpy fairies. When we talk about angels, I attempt to paint pictures for them of warriors. Fierce and victorious, who fight darkness on our behalf. Yes, angels sing and worship God. But they also battle. And stand guard over our children. And fight wicked demons. They are warriors on the winning side, victorious because of the blood of the lamb. So when I picture my son being carried to Jesus by angels, I picture heaven’s equivalent of hard core Navy Seals.)

I am obviously no theologian and I know this passage is not a literal promise of God as to what our transportation to heaven may be.

And it probably won’t be like this. It will most likely be way better. I mean, Elijah went out in a whirlwind on a chariot drawn by horses of fire (2 Kings 2:11). (Lucky!)  The truth is, however we get to heaven… well, its going to be amazing.

One of my favorite homeschooling units from a few years ago was astronomy. There was such an eagerness in my children as we learned about the universe, all the planets and the stars. We did all sorts of pinteresty activities and made these super fun constellation cookies.

We would sit in the backyard and look at the night sky and find the constellations we learned about. When I first pointed out Cassiopeia to my kids I showed them it looked like a “W.”

“No, mom,” Mason corrected me. “Its an M. For Moose and for Motorhome. And for Mommy!”

He would often point out Cassiopeia in the night sky and ask over and over again how long it would take to get there. My eye is always drawn there on clear nights and I remember his sweet voice and sitting with him under the blanket in the backyard staring at the expanse of the stars.

And then, I imagine his special ride to heaven with the angels. And while my human mind cannot understand the dimension of heaven and how that fits into our universe, I can’t help but think how simple our existence is in the light of the magnificence of God. And I sometimes think when Mason’s heart beat its last on this earth, he began a laughter-filled, joyous journey. And on that day he found out just how long it takes to get to Cassiopeia and I think he had a tour of the planets and constellations that would blow my human mind.

And while my life was rocked with ominous silence and dreadful tears, he was listening to angels singing and he was rejoicing.

Maybe I’m wrong. But if it wasn’t like this, I am certain it was beyond. Because when Jesus conquered death and then went to prepare a place for us after he left this earth, I’m pretty sure that not only is he making heaven absolutely perfect, he is putting some amazing details in our arrival.

There is more. So much more than our hearts beating on his beautiful earth. There is hope. And purity. And joy. All available and waiting to welcome us because of Christ’s victory over death.

Christ made what could have been such a dark ending with hopeless finality a beautiful and wonderful gateway into a beginning more glorious than we ever could imagine.

What the enemy intends to use to destroy us, to separate us forever from hope, Christ uses to usher us into the very presence of an Almighty God who created us, loves us, and delights in us.

Easter is a really, really big deal. A Savior is a really, really big deal.

Honestly, I don’t think I ever felt the power of Easter until I lived the oppression of death. But Easter helps me see. Deeper and fuller. This is not the end. Death doesn’t win. Easter brings clarity to every other day of the year. And every thought of the future.

“You do not know the good he has in store for you. As time and space contract, your mind will expand to survey the eternity beyond. As film covers these dull organs of sight, the eyes of your understanding will be opened. Many who depart this life hear the songs of angels long before their ears are closed to the sounds of earth. And how precious Christ becomes to them then. They hardly knew the moment they entered heaven, for as they left earth the radiance of that bright realm dawned a vision of glory.” -Spurgeon

While I was breathing in the sterile smells of a hospital and the lonely stillness of death, Mason was inhaling the richness of perfection, the purity and freshness of heaven. While my eyes dimmed in the existence of my life without my child, Mason’s were being opened to unknowable dimensions of hope and brilliant details of beauty. And while every fiber of me ached to hold him, to feel his arms wrap around my neck, hear his little voice… he felt the rush of angels through the heavens and the soft welcoming embrace of an Almighty God. While I was feeling death, he was living eternal life.

All because the hands that welcomed him were pierced on a cross and the Savior that held him has conquered death. 

Easter is a really, really big deal.

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5 Comments

  1. John Kerr

    Thanks, Stephanie! What a courageous and spirit filled reflection on Mason and the Resurrected Christ. I had just met your parents shortly after Mason left this world, joining their Care Group. I love your parents dearly and knowing them, I feel like I know you and your family. Both your mom and dad have such incredible love for Mason as well as all their kids and grandkids. The love they have for Christ is certainly the same unquenchable love that you have for our Lord and Savior. I praise God for your strength and your resolve to see the deeper picture but can only imagine the great loss you experienced losing Mason. Thanks for a great Easter “sermon”. It was heartfelt, deeply moving and glorified the Living Savior. I am sure He is overwhelmed by your love and devotion to Him.

  2. Jacque Wagner

    God is using you to minister and speak to many people! The way you glorify Him thru your pain is beautiful. Thank you for always pointing us back to Christ!

  3. Amber Johnson

    What a beautiful message and especially at this time of year. My appreciation and understanding of the atonement grew exponentially when my dad suddenly died. I don’t know how people can go through experiences like yours without the knowledge of a loving Father in heaven and His eternal plan for our happiness. You are a true Christian. We sure miss you and your family.

  4. Dawn Groom

    Beautiful! Well said!

  5. Cami

    This is my favorite post. I have come back to it time and time again in the last couple of weeks. As one who is not yet as “comfortable” with God’s plan, your absolute confidence and faith gives me hope and a new way of viewing a journey we will all take. Thank you!

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