I expect big things from our holy days. I expect a surge of faith, a new connection to God, a more profound understanding of the mystery of Christ. Some change in understanding or attitude in me to mark what God has done.
Yet here we are. Lent is finished, Good Friday observed, Easter celebrated. We practiced a Lenten fast, walked through a Lenten devotional. We attended a Good Friday service. We rose early Sunday morning, made it to a 6:30 A.M. sunrise gathering. We sang triumphant anthems proclaiming His resurrection, proclaiming that He lives. We celebrated the fact that the work is finished, that the sacrifices are done, that we are restored and renewed and given the hope of new life because He died and rose again. We ate – oh, did we eat! – ham and potatoes and eggs and green beans and cake and strawberry chiffon pie. Katie participated in her first egg hunt, carefully picked up each brightly colored orb and brought it to her mouth before placing it in her basket. We celebrated and remembered as we gathered with friends and family.
We did all these things. And they are all good things, good observances. Over and over again, throughout both Old and New Testaments, we are commanded to remember, to remember, to remember – and these holy days are one crucial way of doing so. Still, we did all these things, and here I find myself, two days after Easter, in a post-holiday slump. There has been no big revelation for me, no big epiphany. I have not had a radical turn in my faith, no measurable growth.
This is a common occurrence, or at least it is for me: this has been true after every other Easter celebration, after every Advent season as well. I expect big things, great growth. I anticipate new depths to my relationship with the divine, and inevitably find myself in a place very similar to where I was before the festivities, perhaps changed in very small ways, perhaps changed not at all. The post-holiday slump hits, and I think that perhaps my lack of growth is due to some failing in myself.
I want things to be quick. I see my own shortcomings, my doubt, my lack of faith, and I want to grow, to grow, to grow, this instant, now. Holidays, being set apart as they are, seem such a perfect opportunity for that growth, and yet they are rarely, if ever, the leaps forward that I hope they will be.
I wonder if this is the way of faith, really – that it is a practice of small things, of small days, of tiny, imperceptible steps forward, of changes that can only be measured over the course of months or years. I wonder if the holy days that bring so much anticipation are meant more as mile markers, as guideposts and guard rails to keep us headed in the right direction rather than a fast track to a deeper faith. I wonder if faith really is, as Eugene Peterson wrote, a long obedience in the same direction.
I suspect this is the truth – know it is the truth, in fact – that sanctification is such a long, long process, that we are to work out our faith with fear and trembling, that those moments of epiphany are rare and often come in the middle of continued faithfulness. But I have such a long way to go in this faith of mine. I am so, so far from being like the one I claim to follow, and, though I rejoiced in His resurrection on Sunday, though I was profoundly grateful as we sang and prayed and listened, I know I am not much different than I was on Fat Tuesday, and I wish that was not the case.
The only path forward seems to be the hard one, the one He calls me to: regular, daily, small obedience, faithful prayer and observance and study, growing ever-so-slowly, with the whispered cry of my heart always being, “I believe, Lord! Help thou my unbelief.”