The Easter bunny wasn't really a part of our Easter when I was growing up. I suspect it was considered sacrilegious, or maybe it just wasn't my parents' thing. But when my own daughter was old enough to understand, I decided to let her benefit from everything the Easter bunny had to offer.
As I put her to bed the night before the big day, I said, "Just think, Mary Susan. While you are sleeping the Easter bunny will sneak into your room and leave you an Easter basket. Yay! Won't that be great?"
Right away Mary Susan sat straight up in bed and began screaming at the top of her lungs, "NO! TELL HIM TO STAY AT THE MALL!"
Suddenly I imagined the enormous bunny we had seen earlier that day with the emotionless black eyes and three-foot ears. I thought of that scary creature slowly creeping into her room, and she was right. That was a terrifying thought. What was I thinking? I wouldn't want him coming into my room, either.
I tried to explain, in every way I could, who the Easter bunny was and why there was no need to be afraid, but I was completely stumped. Why did we have an Easter bunny, anyway? Then I really hit a brick wall when I tried to somehow connect the Easter bunny with a basket with eggs. What's up with that?
Nothing I said calmed her down so I finally decided to throw in the towel and confess the big bad truth. "Guess what, Mary Susan. There really is no such thing as an Easter bunny. The whole thing is a big, fat lie!"
There was a long, silent pause as Mary Susan carefully considered what I was telling her. She thought for a minute and then screamed, "TELL HIM TO STAY AT THE MALL!" That's the year the Easter bunny died at our house and never returned.
Sometimes I feel like Easter bunnies, baskets of eggs, and fancy dresses (with even gloves in my time) are just big distractions because we can't bear to think of what the Easter season really means.
I have finally realized that I dread the weeks leading up to Easter because I can't stand to hear the agonizing stories of Jesus' death on the cross. I've never been able to watch movies that depict the ghastly details of Jesus' crucifixion because it's just too terrible to imagine - even though the resurrection story is so beautiful.
However, just because it made me uncomfortable was no reason to avoid it altogether - so this year I decided to read the various accounts of Jesus' crucifixion in the Bible, and maybe I'd find something new and very personal to make it less painful. I did find something that totally surprised and blessed me.
Apparently I was so preoccupied with the ugliness of the cross, I never paid much attention to what Jesus actually said while he was hanging there. This time, however, I found the four major cornerstones of our work at Blue Monarch - right there, tucked away in Jesus' own words.
Forgiveness: Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Forgiveness is at the very heart of the great healing that takes place at Blue Monarch. There is so much generational dysfunction and abuse, this statement is often very true. Many times the ones who have hurt the women and children of Blue Monarch really did not know what they were doing at the time. Their behavior was totally acceptable in their homes their whole lives. But through counseling and lots of prayer, our courageous women are able to forgive the ones who caused them great pain, which then begins their own supernatural healing.
This powerful statement even applies to us in a different way. Sometimes our women or children say mean things to our staff that hurt to our core. We need to remind ourselves that they, too, may not know what they are doing and we must forgive in order to continue serving them in the best way possible. Their unkind remarks are often out of pain and will not be so hurtful once they begin to heal.
Faith: When the thief on the cross next to Jesus said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom," Jesus responded, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." The thief was not a righteous man. He had lived a criminal life. But look how quickly Jesus embraced him once this man simply expressed his faith in him. I think that is why we see such huge emotion when the women we serve develop a personal relationship with Jesus. They are completely overcome with God's forgiveness and grace. This, in turn, gives them more than recovery. It gives them true freedom.
Love: Then, this is the one that really moves me. When Jesus saw his mother standing there with the disciple, whom he loved, he said to her, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." The passage says from that time on, this disciple took Mary into his home. Just as Jesus charged this faithful disciple with caring for his mother, whom he loved dearly, he charges us with caring for the women and children he sends to Blue Monarch, whom he also adores.
But there is more. Because the disciple was so special to him, he wanted this man to be blessed by serving his mother. He wanted both to benefit from their relationship together - just as we are blessed by God's children that we welcome into our Blue Monarch home.
Trust: Finally, there is this valuable cornerstone. After Jesus had completed his work on earth, had suffered on the cross to his final breath, he said, "It is finished." At that point he left us with the Holy Spirit for guidance and discernment. One of the hardest things we ever do is watch our women and children walk out the door after we have poured time, heart, and soul into them. Even under the best of circumstances, it is still a frightening thought that they will once again be on their own to make decisions and choices. However, we must always remind ourselves that we have done our best, we have planted the seeds, and at this point we must trust the Holy Spirit, who will continue to be with them - even when we cannot.
Who knew? All these years I avoided one of the most beautiful stories of all time, when all along, there was a special letter waiting for me - hanging right there on the cross. I am so grateful I finally uncovered my eyes and found it because something tells me, this is going to be the best Easter ever.
Thank you, Jesus, for showing me the beauty in the cross - that even in your darkest hour and greatest pain, you spoke truth that would become treasures we need today. Amen