Easter with a surprise twist

“He is not here for HE IS RISEN as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” – Matthew 28:6

This morning I woke up with a smile on my face and a light in my heart because Jesus rose from the dead. After scarfing down two cinnamon rolls, I donned a colorful dress and piled into a car with my family for 10 a.m. Mass knowing full-well it was 9:15 a.m. and we only lived 10 minutes away. We expected Mass to be packed in order to accommodate the “Cafeteria Catholics” – those who only attend Mass on major religious holidays.

Happy-Easter-2017

As we crossed the vestibule, my heart soared as I caught a glimpse of the altar. On Good Friday, the altar was stripped of everything – candles and foliage. Today, the altar was flooded with white lilies. I was excited to be there with my family, and then I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and saw my ex’s mother (the one I dated for almost five years). Seeing her was not a surprise since I often saw her on Sundays. The surprise was her response to my comment, “I thought you’d be in Nashville for Easter.” My ex had been living in Nashville for the last 4+ years. Her response was quick, “He’s here today.” All at once my mind began spinning. He was here? I asked her to clarify, “He’s here at Mass with you?” She answered, “Not yet, he and his girlfriend should be here shortly.”

This would be our first time seeing each other since our breakup two years before.  My breathing grew ragged as we walked toward the pews. “Well tell him I would love to say hi and meet his girlfriend.” I shuddered at the words my mouth decided to spew. I didn’t want to meet his girlfriend nor did I want to speak to him. I didn’t have anything against them, I just knew it would be weird.

I went and collapsed next to my mom. I still could not believe what I’d said. I knew the minute he arrived, his mom would regurgitate my exact words. The church continued to fill as we sang the opening song. Easter Mass is one of my favorite services because of the music, homily and joy. The choir’s sound was full and beautiful; the homily was insightful and inspiring; and joy was bursting from my heart. My anxiety didn’t return until the final hymn concluded and everyone started leaving. I had to make a decision. Talk to my ex and meet his new girlfriend? Or run?

My family and I waited out the crowds by remaining in our pew for a few minutes. I followed my family to the vestibule for a family photo. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his mother point me out, but I pretended I didn’t see. After our family photo I scanned the vestibule to see if they were lurking around. No confirmed sighting prompted me to head to the parking lot. I felt a strange knot in my stomach. It was a mixture of relief and regret. I was relieved I’d avoided an awkward situation, but regretted not speaking to him. What would he have said? What would I have said? Would we have hugged or shaken hands? What would his girlfriend have acted like? All of these questions would go unanswered because of my choice: avoidance.

Facebook, fingernails & forgiveness

With Lent starting in two days, I’ve narrowed down what I plan to give up. I’ve decided on two bad habits: Facebook and fingernail biting. I do both things without thinking and each cost me something. Facebook costs time and fingernail biting costs my nails (duh). Research says it takes 21 days to develop a habit, so when April 16 arrives I should no longer feel the need to pick at or chew my nails or surf through Facebook. Two negative habits will be conquered though discipline and sacrifice.

cross-lent-purple-drape-5

If you asked a non-Catholic to associate a phrase with Lent, most would say, “A time to give something up like sweets or TV.” They’re not 100% wrong, Lent is a time of sacrifice, which means giving up something that you enjoy. Lent is also about forgiveness. Forgiveness is becoming less meaningful. When someone screws up and says they’re sorry, half the time they don’t even mean it. The words float out of their mouth out of habit. While the offended may nod and say it’s ok. Have they really practiced forgiveness? Not quite.

An article from Christianity Today highlights three steps for forgiveness: surrender the desire to get even, rediscover the wrongdoer’s humanity and wish them well. There’s no way someone who says “It’s ok” right away has had time to complete these steps. You should take time before you forgive someone – your response doesn’t have to be immediate. You also don’t have to forget what the person did, just don’t let it cause a grudge. When I’m hurt by someone, I try to force it out of my mind. But the more I try to push it out, the more engrained it becomes.

I’ve never been skilled at forgiving. I’m guilty of saying “It’s ok” after being hurt or wronged, and when I do that I’m depriving myself and the offender time to reflect on the transgression. A fake line of forgiveness doesn’t help anyone. The key is time. Even though God forgives us in a single breath, we don’t have that ability. We require time to pray, reflect and listen to the Holy Spirit.

“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” – Micah 7:18-19