As a kid, Easter was all about being with my family and eating copious amounts of chocolate. I spent many of my Easter holidays in Florida at my grandparents’ house with my cousins, aunt and uncle. The night before easter we sat around the dining room table coloring eggs, each one of us trying to come up with the coolest design. The next day we would wake up in the morning and hunt for our (barely) hidden Easter basket.
After consuming almost all of the contents of said easter basket, we would reluctantly get ready for church, my cousins and I groaning that we didn’t want to go and “can’t we just stay home?” The service always seemed to be the longest and most boring part of the day. Clearly we were missing the point of the holiday. After church we spent the rest of the day consuming more food and candy, again paying very little mind to what it was we were celebrating.
These days the outline of the day looks similar, but I attempt to take more time to reflect on the meaning of the holiday. What am I celebrating and why? Do I believe the story of Easter as it is described in the bible? What does it mean to me and how can I apply it to my life?
Without going into too much depth on my religious beliefs (if you do want a bit more info on that you can check out this post), here is a bit about what Easter really means to me:
It gives me a renewed sense of hope. In a time when we are seeing horrific terrorist attacks occurring all over the world, I remain hopeful that love and kindness will eventually prevail.
It reminds me that forgiveness is both possible and necessary.
It grounds me, helping me to reflect on my faith and the amazing, unseen and unknown mysteries that surround us.
It energizes me to continue to reinvent myself daily and to try to become a better person.
It means that “popcorn trees” are coming! In my family, we have always called cherry blossoms “popcorn trees”. They are one of my favorite parts of spring and they are so close to popping and revealing their beautiful pink selves.
What does Easter mean for you? Is it a time of joy, hope, reinvention? Let me know!
I’m diving right in with a controversial topic because, as I said, this is my honest account of growing up in NYC.
My mom was raised as a “Christian” in Cleveland, Ohio. She went to Baptist Bible camp in Wisconsin every summer and managed to corral all of her friends to come to church with her on Sundays. My grandparents used to joke that she had a whole aisle full of boys next to her in the pew at church because if they wanted to hang out with her on the weekends they had to come to church too. They were a religious family, but they were also extremely welcoming and accepting of all types of people. It’s unfortunate that my experience has been that this isn’t always the case. I’m told that after all the boys came to church, they would go back to my grandparents house, roll up the rugs and throw a party. My mom played piano while they had sing alongs and my grandma sat in the kitchen as the teens told her about their adolescent problems. My mom recalls the kids telling my grandma about their marijuana habits, and girl troubles.
When I was growing up, my mom tried to create the same type of church community and tradition for me. It didn’t prove to be very easy. We generally would find a church we liked the looks of and would attend services for anywhere between 1 Sunday to a few years. Without fail nearly every church would eventually make a statement on their disapproval of homosexuality. As soon as this topic came up and we realized their stance was less than accepting, we would move on to the next church. This went on for years.
Throughout this time, my mom simultaneously meditated and traveled to an Ashram in Switzerland to chant with a guru for 24 consecutive hours. She’s trained in Transcendental Meditation and was initiated into Parmahansa Yogananda’s Self Realization Fellowship. We had a meditation altar in our apartment and we each had special meditation mats which were meant to soak up our positive energy.
Though I also attended “Bible camp” every summer and went to Catholic high school, it was a circuitous journey to my current spiritual state. I went through a religious rebellion for many years as teens often do, never to the extent where I denied the existence of a higher power altogether, but I wasn’t sure that praying to someone would help in anyway. Eventually in college I started attending church on my own volition as well as becoming a part of various religious groups. Here again I had trouble associating with groups who weren’t accepting of all types of people and was never able to fully commit to any one group or church. During this time I developed my own spiritual practices, frequently meditating and reading religious texts such as scripture and spiritually based “self- help” books.
In New York I’ve seen slow but steady progress towards all inclusive faith based communities. In recent years I’ve been going between two churches in Manhattan. Hillsong United is a mega-church which originated in Australia that attracts primarily young hipsters and celebrities. I like this church not only because I’ve seen Justin Beiber there, but also because 1) the music is incredible and 2) I think it’s important that young people have a place where they feel it’s safe and even “cool” to openly celebrate their faith. Church is held in a night club and looks like a disco party. There’s 8 services in two locations in NYC every Sunday as well as various mid- week events.
The Church of Saint Paul and Saint Andrew on the Upper West Side is an incredible place that states on the front of their program that they accept people of every gender, sexual orientation, race or religious belief. This is the kind of group I want to be a part of. Not only do they walk in the gay pride parade and marry homosexual couples, they also share their church with a Jewish temple. This is so central to my beliefs. I’m not sure how to make sense of this to people who question why I read the bible if I clearly disagree with major parts of it, but all I can say is it works for me. I identify as a Christian, but I don’t believe it’s the only way. I don’t believe only Christians go to heaven, I think everyone goes to heaven. I think one person’s practice of Islam or Hinduism is just as valid as my practice of Christianity. I think praying in bed at night is not so different than sitting under a tree and having gratitude for your surroundings.
I think everyone’s spiritual journey is personal and ever-evolving. This has been my experience thus far within the context of my history and my upbringing. I think it’s a fascinating topic and I always love to hear other people’s stories, whether they are similar to mine or completely opposing.