Hope Builds: Rolling Away the Stone During an Easter That Looks Different

“You don’t want the bookshelf to fall on the kids,” my wife said. No, I agreed. I decidedly did not.

I was desperately searching for a stud in the newly painted wall. The stud finder was succeeding in finding only my irritation, and that I could discover all on my own. I had successfully secured one side of the old gray bookshelf to the wall, but the second stud was proving more elusive. 

I shook my head, frustrated. The bookshelf itself was already speckled with extraneous holes, the result of my overeager drilling. And soon, the wall would follow suit. I drilled straight into drywall and nearly threw the tool out the second-story window. 

No one would describe me as “handy.”

My wife is very pregnant, due in early summer. So, I have found myself spending a good deal of this “lockdown” time assembling dressers, painting walls, and shuffling furniture among our upstairs rooms. 

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It’s hardly the spiritual journey I expected during these final days of Lent. A liturgical season meant to slowly, steadily temper our souls through the slow cooking flames of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving has become a pressure cooker ready to burst. Little hiccups like holes in the wall compound faster than they otherwise would, slipping quickly into bitterness and anger. 

Lent has brought unique challenges. Easter will feel different this year. 

So much of our Easter imagery involves going out, journeying with, seeking and finding. There is motion in the Easter narrative – a welcome transition from the interior soul-searching so often associated with Lent. 

But this Easter, when the stone is rolled away, the vast majority of us will still be confined to our homes. Our metaphoric tomb will not be empty, but likely quite full. Our roads to Emmaus will stand vacant, quiet. 

Few of us have the luxury of encountering strangers along the way. 

And yet, the message of Easter is as timely as ever. We are a people of hope. Our God is a God of surprises. And the stone will, nevertheless, be rolled away. What will we find within?

I return to that image of the Lenten pressure cooker. And I see myself, so often during these past forty days, losing my patience, lashing out at my friends, family, and coworkers, defaulting to uncharitable thoughts and threatening to throw drills through windows. (Not literally, but you get the idea.) Lent in lockdown has pushed so many of us to our limits, limits we likely didn’t even consider a month ago. 

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Our Instapot pressure cooker has a helpful feature: It lets me know when food is burning. If that happens, I need to release the pressure, flip the switch and watch the steam slowly, steadily flood out. 

That’s what Easter can be this year. As the stone is rolled away, as the risen Jesus steps into the garden, we release our own steam; we depressurize. Christ takes it from us. And we go from burned to simmering, not quite ready for the feast but cooling, almost there.

Easter this year will be different. But the message is the same. And while we can’t go out to encounter others in their joys and sufferings, we can make room for their joys and sufferings right where we are. We can build virtual bridges between our not-so-empty tombs and those of others. 

But first – as is true every Easter – we have to roll away the stone. Let the steam stream out; let fresh air in. Give those things that cause us stress and anxiety to the risen Lord, recognizing that it might not be a once-and-done task but an ongoing process. 

My stud finder will always uncover my frustration faster than it will studs. But the Easter message is slow burn; hope builds, so long as we continue to make room for it.