I look at Easter not just as a day, but as a kickoff, if you will, for Eastertide. I see it as somewhat analogous to New Year’s Day. Resolutions start then, and don’t end when the day is over. Eastertide is a time to look at renewal in your life. If that renewal is simply a present fact, as is my continuing recovery from ME/CFS — thanks be to God — then it is a time for celebration. Sometimes, though, you may have to gently invite that renewal.
Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian calendar and it means a lot to me and other believers. This year, I wanted to write something to convey the beauty of Easter, but I didn’t come across any articles that really sparked my imagination and spurred my writing. Then I realized, while sitting in church, that I had actually already read a post that spoke to me about Easter in way that was relevant to my recent experiences – that I wanted to share.
Peggy Noonan writes for The Wall Street Journal about “America’s Most Tumultuous Holy Week,” which she believes was the week in April 1865. To make her case, she subtitles her piece: “On Palm Sunday, Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant. Lincoln was dead by Easter.” It’s a pretty strong argument for a superlative level of tumult. What impressed me about her account of the surrender of General Lee to General Grant was the amount of grace that the North gave to the South after such a bloody war. The reason for grace wasn’t that the figures in the North thought that the cause of the South was anything but criminally unjust.
Grant would write in his memoirs “What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know.” His own feelings, which had earlier been jubilant, were now “sad and depressed.” He couldn’t rejoice at the downfall of a foe that had “suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”
I’m pretty sure I’ve heard those lines before in the Ken Burns Civil War documentary because when I read it, I hear it said, in one of Burns’ reliable narrator’s voices. It shows the disdain that the Union soldiers must have had for the Confederate cause. Yet, when it came time to negotiate the terms of surrender, they were merciful terms. The Confederate soldiers were allowed to keep their personal arms, take a horse or a donkey, were fed and sent on their way back to farm their lands. Noonan relates, “Grant’s commissary chief later asked, ‘Were such terms ever before given by a conqueror to a defeated foe?'” Perhaps they were, but that kind of treatment is not the standard following a war.
The United States perhaps would not have remained united following the war, were it not for those terms. As I remember why Christ died for us, I like think His sacrifice to earn forgiveness for our sins can be best celebrated by forgiving others. At a time when bickering in this country happens over seemingly everything, this Easter reminds me that we can be reconciled over even some of the most difficult things.