For the Days Following Easter: Because Real Life Doesn't Look Like Your Perfect Family Photo

The photos started popping up around mid-morning Easter Sunday, as folks nationwide were making the journey to church. Apparently, Easter also has the lesser-known title of National Family Photo Day, second only to Christmas, just in case some of you missed the memo. No greeting cards necessary, however—a simple Facebook post will do.

“Easter with the family!” They say. #happyeaster #heisrisen #lovemyfamily #soblessed

And as I scrolled down the feed, gazing at the abundance of matching pastels, parents holding their babies, and smiles plastered on faces all around, I started to wonder. What if those pictures were instead a sheet of stickers, and I could reach out and peel back their faces to see what was really hidden underneath? What would I find behind the mom and her baby, the couple holding hands, or the smiling children lined up in a row?

Not-So-Happy Easter photo, followed by real life hashtags. #thismorningsucked #iyelledoverstupidthings #theonlyonethatlikesmenowisthebaby #smilingforthepicturewouldseemlikeajoke #butitsnotfunny #letsgotochurch #thankGodhe'srisen #reallyneedthattoday

On the way out the door, I snapped this one of my kids as we jumped in the car to head to church ourselves. Before I realized it was Family Photo Day, of course. I told them to “Smile! It’s Easter! Say Happy Easter!”

Why do we need to take a stupid picture when you can’t even see our outfits? My daughter protested.

Ya, Happy Easter, my son said, with sarcasm dripping from his lips. And their faces said it all.

Because the reality was, it had probably been anything but.

Oh, I tried. I really did. I did my best to have everything set out and ready ahead of time so we wouldn’t have to rush. I was up early and made every effort to be present with the kids and finish getting the house prepped. But within the first hour of being awake, I had to apologize more times then I had fingers on a fist to shake at them.

I lost it over spilled milk and bubbles, got frustrated with missing socks, failed to see the strides of obedience and helpfulness and focused on the mistakes instead. I asked forgiveness, but sometimes the hurt lingers, and so does the stress. It hangs in the air like the smog from a burnt dinner, and it’s hard to fan away the stench. Hours later even, it’s still noticeable.

The devil is in the details on Sunday mornings, and even more so on the Holy Days. He’s like a shark circling in the water, and he can smell the blood of desperate, wounded souls longing for their Savior. By time some of us make it to church, we are utterly exhausted from treading water, just trying to survive.

I dropped the kids off in class and then poked my head into the classroom across the room to see a dear friend sitting on the floor, caring for the little one in her charge.

How was your morning? I asked her.

It was…rough. Really rough. She replied with a nod as she brushed the hair behind her ear, her head hanging now from the weight of the guilt.

I know. Mine too.

Sometimes it’s all you can do to make it there in one piece.

As I stood in the back of the sanctuary, soaking in the worship and doing my best not to burst into tears on the spot, I wondered to myself, almost aloud, why don’t we talk about it??

Amid the toddlers pulled right out of a magazine ad, the delicious-looking family meals and the color-coded ducks in a row, why doesn’t someone say that even Easter Sunday, particularly Easter Sunday, is hard? Any mention of this thing called "real life" seems to be mysteriously absent from all the festivities.

Don’t get me wrong—its not that family shouldn’t be celebrated on Easter—heck, it’s probably one of the few times a year that everyone is dressed up, coordinated, and early enough to pause for a rare moment together. A memory that you will look back on and probably treasure for years to come. I totally get it and even tried to pull it off myself. "Tried" being the operative word there.

And not that there shouldn’t be joy and celebration, worship and praise—our Savior has risen from the dead! But I wonder, as the world looks at our lives—at our photos—if they think they have to be polished and pristine to darken the door of a church. That only perfect looking, color-coordinated, pretty people go there. The ones who have it all together. The ones with all their kids in a row, smiling, and a picture to prove it.

And with the weight of that image on my chest, I was finding it hard to breathe. I for one don’t measure up, but that, my friends, is the beauty of the Resurrection. Because I don’t have to. Christ came down to earth, lived a sinless life, and died a horrible death on a cross for me because of his great love. Not because I did anything for him or because I deserved it or because I showed up at church on Easter Sunday in my best dress.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8

So I guess I’m here to tell you that it’s okay.

It’s okay to have an Easter Sunday, or any Sunday for that matter, that totally sucks by 9:00am. The kind of day where you’d rather just crawl back into bed then face another minute. And it’s okay to talk about it. You don’t have to feel guilty about it, or ungrateful, or hypocritical, or like a total jerk of a Christian.

You're not. You just simply suffer from something they call "being human." We all do.

In fact, if you were to peel back the stickers and peek under the smiles in those perfect family photos, I imagine that you’d find many a crappy Sunday morning hiding there. 

Tenth Avenue North

I’m Tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world

And I know that you can give me rest

So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn