Easter has always been my favorite holiday. I love the symbolism, of course, and why we celebrate. I love that Jesus died for me and that in doing so He saved me from myself and made it possible for me to live as I was intended and created to live. Let’s be honest, I also love candy and dying and hunting for eggs. I love getting dressed up for Easter Sunday church and tearing through an Easter basket. I love spring and the smell in the air. I love having a chocolate bunny in the freezer for a week to gnaw on whenever I want.
For whatever reason, Easter has also become the time when I am most aware of the spiritual realm. Most Easters have passed by in an unremarkable fashion. The Easter season comes, eggs and chocolate are consumed, I reflect a bit, write some, and the season passes, making way for full swing springtime. One Easter season, however, was a bit different. I was in high school – I don’t remember what grade or age specifically – and it was Easter. I don’t know where my family was, but I was alone in my bedroom on my bed. I might have been napping or watching TV or in a sugar-induced coma. My memory is not great in general, but on this occasion my memory starts with me lying on my bed sobbing in fear.
I remember lying there, crying uncontrollably, and just being afraid. I remember feeling like things were swirling all around me in the air. When I think back on it now I look down on myself in my dark basement bedroom, curled up in the fetal position and crying on my bed, and I see formless black spirits circling me in my room.
My grandma Susie has always given me small gifts on every holiday. She still manages to get some of these gifts to me even though we live in different countries and only get to see each other about once a year. That year Grandma Susie came over to give me my Easter gift while I was lying on my bed, crying in fear. I remember hearing her knock on the door and then opening it. I remember her calling out to me, but I don’t remember calling back. I remember her being in the bathroom that lead into my bedroom and hugging her, squeezing her so tight. I remember not being able to say anything, let alone verbalize what I was feeling or why I was crying. I remember her saying, “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
And that’s it. I don’t remember talking to her or thanking her or her leaving. I don’t remember the rest of the day. I remember, more than anything, the fear.
This year on the day before Easter my parents and I went on a boat tour to Los Haitises National Park in Samana. We rode a boat across Samana Bay and then got off at a little beach from which our guide led us into a very open cave. It was beautiful and so old and I loved thinking about all of the people who had been there before. From there he led us into a more traditional cave. There was a big entrance, but once we entered we were very much in a cave. I passed through the entrance and looked up at the huge stalactites/mites hanging down from the ceiling and immediately backed out into the open air.
“I don’t like it,” I called to my mom from the cave entrance, my body filled with fear.
Later she asked if it was the enclosed space. I’m not sure. I couldn’t verbalize at the time why I felt afraid or anxious. At one point I was shaking my hands at my sides (what I call “flapping” – something that I do when I’m anxious) and at more than one point I was near tears. But I had no idea why I was afraid. The comparison that came to mind is when a child is afraid of something simply because, “it’s scary.” Those caves, and especially looking up and around at the different forms and shapes the rock had taken, was simply scary to me. And I didn’t like it.
I persevered because I was not in danger and I wasn’t so anxious or scared that I felt I was going to hyperventilate or pass out or anything and because I didn’t want to miss out on what turned out to be the bulk of the tour. The third and largest cave we came to was called Angel Gabriel. As soon as the guide told us the name of the cave God said to me, “I am even here.”
I looked around that giant cave and thought about how the hem of God’s robe overflowed the temple in the Old Testament. He is so big and so mighty and so much more powerful than whatever it was that was scaring me. Realizing that lifted the fear from my body.
The fear I felt in the caves was comparable to the fear I felt that Easter day so many years ago, although not nearly as strong. I believe I was in some small way experiencing the reality of the spiritual realm. There must have been something going on that day. I am so grateful that I am on the side of the victor. That death has been defeated. That nothing has ownership or control or power over me because my good God who loves me so much He died for me.