I went to church on Easter Sunday. I think the preacher had been told to make his sermon child friendly. His visual aids were several different Easter Eggs. He tried to make some sort of spiritual point about each of them. (I shall now view Cadbury’s Creme Eggs in a different light!) His main point was to take a Kinder Surprise egg and an ordinary one. He tried to show that an ordinary egg was not a good illustration of spirituality because it was empty. The Kinder egg, however, was a better one because it always contained a surprise. This he suggested was a picture of Christianity. It always holds a surprise inside itself. (I’m not too sure about this picture of religion but…)
Despite myself I was struck by his two images. I was, however, more struck by the “empty” egg and its possibilities. (At this point I am going to get “religious”-or perhaps”spiritual” is a better word.)
I found myself conflating two ideas from this sermon. Or perhaps three. One was the idea of emptiness. Specifically the emptiness of an Easter egg. This reminded me of the empty tomb of the Easter story, which we are told signifies Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and his eventual ascension to heaven. (All of which find echoes in psychological language.) I then played with what might have been painted on the walls of the tomb. (Hence the picture of cave paintings.) Finally I had an idea of these images “rising” with Christ into some new life, having been redeemed. (Again I think all these words have a resonance beyond their specifically Christian context.) Hopefully I will make my point in the rest of this piece-and probably in another one as well.
The Christian meaning given to the Easter event is that Christ’s death and resurrection are a means- the means?- by which our sins are forgiven and we are able to be at one with God and ourselves. Implicit also in the narrative and subsequent commentaries is the idea that we can choose whether or not to accept this offer. If we do, the story goes, our lives will be richer. We will be made whole. If we choose not accept the offer, then we risk losing out on many levels. (And depending on how cruel one’s God is, this loss extends through all our temporal life and into eternity where we will have plenty of time to regret our choices. Or to delight that we made the “right” choice.)
At this point I want to suggest some obvious emotional parallels here. Many individuals and communities know what it is to have suffered at other’s hands-and feet. And guns. And machetes. And assorted other methods of abuse, both physical and psychological. The image of a man hung, naked and helpless on a cross is one graphic way to encapsulate suffering.
In psychological terms Easter seems to suggest that we have choices. That, with help, suffering can become a spur to wholeness. That trauma, whilst not to be forgotten, can be used creatively. Most of my patients come to me because they want to find a way to make sense of their past. And to try to find a more healthful future for themselves. Their past hurts and abuses are not forgotten. Nor ignored. They bring these pasts into every session one way and another. And part of the work is to try to redeem these pasts. to detoxify them. which seems to me to be one way to understand the Easter story. It is a detoxification narrative.