For me, Easter is steeped in memories of my childhood. We’d pile in our two-toned Oldsmobile, nicknamed Gladys, driving two hours from my home in the Bay Area of California to my grandparent’s house in Sacramento. The eternal question was offered up regularly by me or my brother in the backseat, “Are we there yet?” Saturday was a blur of preparations, including boiling and dying eggs. Finally, the big day arrived. Easter Sunday! I was eager to get up and see what the Easter bunny brought. “No candy until after church.” But then grandma would wink at me and, when my parents were out of sight, sneak me a small foil-covered chocolate egg. She also regularly let me have ice cream for breakfast. I loved visiting grandma! Then it was off to church, my tightly combed ponytail facilitating a smiling expression that belied my discomfort in the inevitably itchy Easter dress. My reward for sitting quietly all through worship? The Easter egg hunt afterwards in grandma’s backyard with all of the cousins! There were six of us so I learned to move fast and hunt low, being one of the younger and, therefore, shorter children. In addition to tons of boiled eggs, plus plastic ones filled with chocolates, there was also one special egg that had a dollar in it, a big find for a preschooler in the mid-60’s! Ready, set, GO!!!! Mayhem ensued in a free-for-all, mad dash for those precious eggs. Afterwards, grandma gathered up the boiled eggs and made egg salad and deviled eggs out of them. We kept the candy. The one lucky recipient of the money egg was typically just a bit smug, snapping that crisp dollar bill under the disappointed noses of those less fortunate.
The Easter egg hunts for my son were much more sedate. Being an only child with ASD and having no extended family living within 2,000 miles, our egg hunts were for a party of one. The community egg hunt was over-stimulating and that competitive scramble of hundreds of children guaranteed a meltdown. At times I have felt guilty that his Easter memories were so different from mine. I suppose my concern was that I offered him something less. That guilt caused me to compensate with more eggs than one child needs, and inflation greatly blessed the contents of the money egg. What Craig taught me as he grew up is that what I offered wasn’t less, rather it was different. More important, it was just right for him. Looking back now, he says he loved knowing he didn’t have to rush. He could really enjoy the moment, knowing that the hunt was all for him and the one extra special egg was his reward if he just kept looking long enough. We hid that one very well! He never wanted us to show him. He needed to find it for himself. For him, the joy of the hunt came in looking for something, even when what he was looking for wasn’t where expected it to be.
What Craig experienced, on a rather profound level, has much to do with what Easter is all about. After Jesus was crucified and laid in the tomb, on the third day the women came to attend his body. Except Jesus’ body wasn’t where they expected it to be. Thus began a Easter hunt of a much more important nature.
Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. (Mat 28:5-6 NLT)
What Christ offers to us through the resurrection is a gift for everyone, but it is a gift claimed through the individual effort of seeking. It is not a gift another person can bestow upon me or you or anyone else. Rather, this gift only comes through seeking for ourselves, encountering Christ, and proclaiming him as Lord in a one on one encounter. The joy of discovery in finding Christ magnifies that innocent joy of the childhood experience of Easter. It celebrates finding what we are seeking.
Sometimes as parents of children with special needs, what we are seeking is simply a practical answer to how we can be part of the Easter celebration. With Easter Sunday coming tomorrow, I understand how it is hard for some to be part of those large celebrations. Crowded sanctuaries, physical accessibility limitations, sensory and anxiety, issues all make high holy days especially challenging. If you are looking for a way to be part of a worshiping community on Easter Sunday, here is a wonderful option available online. Front Door Online church specifically seeks to offer a worship experience geared to families with special needs.
Happy Easter to all and may you find that which you seek.