Musings on this Easter Day


Pardon the two week hiatus; travel and illness prevented my posting. It's an overcast Easter sabbath, but even so, Easter is my favorite holiday. Easter is when we celebrate the day(s) when all the Promises become true and sure. Promises that we would live together in peace and happiness, together with our bodies, our families, and our Heavenly Parents, forever. President Nelson urged this year that we make Easter more than bunnies and chocolate, and so my family elected to see the film The Passion, which came out years ago now (2004). It was criticized at the time for being too Catholic, too gruesome, and of course, it was criticized for being the brainchild of Mel Gibson, who was then less well-regarded than he had been earlier in his career.

But there is value in it, there surely is. I've written before about the power of physical suffering--it's power to change us, but also the power to love deeply. And that power to love deeply is the only real power in the universe. As a mother, I have partaken in this mystery six times. Six times I have walked in the valley of the shadow of death and suffering to bring my children across the divide to their mortal second estate. And it was real, immense physical suffering without pain relief. I had learned the midwife saying, "The greater the pain in birth, the greater the love for the child." And God gave me a steely love for my children in recompense for what I had endured. It was a good bargain, from my point of view. I do no think that I would ever have understood what it was possible to feel without that physical experience.

I think the same was true for Christ, though at a far grander scale, of course. I do not think it would have been possible for Him to understand what it was possible to feel without the physical suffering in Gethsemane and at Golgotha. And that experience likewise gave him a love made of steel. He is our truest friend, just as I am my children's truest friend next to Him. We paid the price owed for that privilege.

We so underestimate the power of suffering. We run from it like children. Now, gratuitous suffering--self-inflicted suffering--may have its uses, but that is not what I speak of here. To choose to suffer when there is no other way to follow the true path of love and truth, is something else entirely. Something sacred. Something powerful. Something to shrink from, to be sure, but not something to run from. These days, that ancient wisdom has been almost completely lost.

Think: Why didn't God anesthetize Christ during Gethsemane and Golgotha? God had the power to make that happen. But would it have been an Atonement, or a farce?

As Frances Bennion so eloquently put it, "We suffer because, like Christ in the desert, we apparently did not say we would come only if God would change all our stones to bread in time of hunger. We were willing to know hunger. Like Christ in the desert, we did not ask God to let us try falling or being bruised only on condition that he catch us before we touch ground and save us from real hurt.41 We were willing to know hurt. Like Christ, we did not agree to come only if God would make everyone bow to us and respect us, or admire us and understand us. "

More from Bennion: "If we are to be like God, we cannot live forever in fear that we may meet something that will scare us or that will hurt us. We have to be able, as he is able, to meet what comes of others’ agency, and of living in a lawful universe that allows creation of a habitable planet only when it allows also the difficulties that come in natural operations of such a planet."

"Christ’s atonement makes it possible for us to go through the meeting of reality, the falling, the hungering, the screaming, the crawling on the floor, the being disfigured and scarred for life psychologically or physically, and still survive and transcend it. If that were not true, then our whole universe would have no meaning, and we had just as well be what Lucifer suggested, simply obedient robots." And the only way it is possible for us is that it was possible for him to survive those things as well--no anesthesia.

I found an old essay, by a gentleman called Gary Fleming. He had some useful thoughts to relate: "Admiral Jim Stockdale was the highest ranking US military officer imprisoned in Vietnam. He was held in the “Hanoi Hilton” and repeatedly tortured over 8 years. Jim Collins, author of the book, Good to Great outlines his conversation with Stockdale in which he described his experience as a prisoner of war. Here’s how Stockdale put it. “I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.” Jim Collins later developed the Admiral’s thoughts into what he called The Stockdale Paradox which states, “Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” Those are important realizations--the wisdom and the love will not come if you duck the reality.


I also was sent an interesting essay today on the theme of Easter. It makes the excellent point that what those who desired Christ's death was not simply Christ Himself, but also Truth itself. They wanted the death of Truth. I'll let the author speak:

"Two thousand years ago, a group of men flogged Truth to within an inch of its life then nailed Truth to a cross, hoisted the cross in the air, and killed Truth.  Three days later, Truth came out of the grave.  Even secular historians consider Good Friday one of the, if not the, most important events in human history. . ."

"When the Romans dragged the second person of the trinity who spoke the world into being before Pontius Pilate, “Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’” John 18:37 (ESV). Pilate, famously, replied with a question, “What is truth?” Today, those who reject Christ cannot even tell us what a woman is. Truth, an absolute that is embodied in He who called Himself “the way, the truth, and the life,” is now relative, fungible, and negotiable. . . "

"But Christ is Truth. Truth came out of the grave. Truth cannot be killed. It will pierce the hearts of those grown cold and make them warm, and it will crush lies. Truth wins in the end, and all our idols will turn to dust."

In this day and age, this message is needed more than ever. He is Truth, and Truth cannot be killed. Let your life reflect that; fear not the father of lies! Fear not the reality of suffering! Easter means triumph over suffering, lies, and fear!

Happy Easter to all tonight!