BY KATIE ESTES
I never knew why we celebrated Easter.
When I was a little girl, my parents used to take me to a popular park close to our house. The day consisted of an annual giant Easter egg hunt which no one wanted to miss. My most vivid memories were crafting my entry for the Easter themed bonnet competition. Looking back, it sounds silly that we were so motivated to win. When I was four years old we finally achieved that goal. My prize? A basket of goodies along with posing in my massive hat covered in Easter eggs of various colors and sizes in the local newspaper. That distinctive moment in my childhood created an expectation that Easter is a day of celebrating with candy, toys, and spending time with family.
My expectations were challenged when I decided to go to Central Washington University. I would consider myself a very family-oriented person. So moving three hours away, leaving my parents, younger brother, and everything I saw as normal to start my college experience was very difficult. In order to distract myself from my emptiness, I began to fill it with substances, attention from others, and fake friendships during my freshman and sophomore years. But I did not know any better. This was normal, right? Everyone around me said so. It was the typical college lifestyle and if you were not doing what everybody else was doing, then you were doing it wrong. This uncertainty and uncontrollable urge to think of every possible negative attribute about myself progressed into anxiety and paranoia. It was not until the anxiety attacks and morbid thoughts I was having became overwhelming that my friends told me I needed to turn my life around to be truly happy again.
This was not “the old Katie,” nor was it “the new Katie”.
This was a sad, emotionally uncontrollable Katie needing Jesus.
It was the start of spring 2015 and the weather was starting to get warm. With the “have a happy Easter!” goodbyes and hugs, my friends left for the weekend to be with their families. I did not feel up to going home to my normal Easter routine, so I stayed in Ellensburg instead, filling myself with walks around campus and binge watching Netflix. My dear friend noticed my complacency and asked if I wanted to go to the Good Friday service on campus with her. Not knowing about religion or God at all, I obliged and walked into an auditorium filled with college students all greeting me with smiling faces.
I shook hands, introduced myself, and sat in an aisle seat with a pit in my stomach feeling very out of place. My only thought was, “what am I doing here?”
The pastor told the story of Jesus and the sequence of events that led up to the resurrection. Listening to this story I kept wondering how could people be so cruel to do that to someone? What kind of sick joke is this? But then they explained how Jesus died on the cross and three days later He rose from His tomb and is alive like He said would happen.
That night the gospel became real to me.
Through my confusion I had a breakthrough. All of the anger and frustration I carried was lifted off my shoulders. I truly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit for the first time. It was as if I was having an out of body experience where I felt like everything in my life finally pieced together and there I was sitting in an auditorium full of strangers, weeping like a little baby.
I finally understood that our Father loved us so incredibly much that He would sacrifice His only son for us to be saved. We are wanted and treasured by God, and through His son Jesus Christ we can live a joyous life that only comes from a relationship with Him. My perspective shifted on the suffering I had endured while living alone in this little country town, three hours away from home when I realized that Jesus first suffered in order for me to truly live. I have seen growth and maturity in the way I handle hardships. I am learning to give my depression and anxiety of not having control to God. Knowing that we have a Savior gives hope that through all of the darkness He is there and will redirect us to the path He already has planned.
I realized what I had been missing the past 19 years of my life was Jesus and His love. But He has been pursuing me even before I was alive, how incredible is that?
In Galatians 2:20 it says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
On May 31st, 2015 I decided to publicly proclaim my faith to my friends, family, and to the Lord by being baptized. Good Friday and Easter Sunday are no longer about a fancy bonnet or racing to see who can get the most Easter eggs. Now Easter has a whole new meaning. When I think of Easter I think of the gospel and what Jesus did selflessly for me. I think about how I want to live my life for Him.
If you connected with this story and want to speak with someone about it, email firstname.lastname@example.org.