Destruction and Renewal: Experiencing Easter in Antigua, Guatemala

I went to Catholic school for twelve years of my childhood and adolescence. The teachings of the religion mostly fell on deaf ears as far as I was concerned. None of it really spoke to me, I doubted most of the stories’ validity and the bearers of this message (my teachers) rarely inspired me to faith.

I developed a rather large chip on my shoulder about what I perceived to be the hypocrisy of religious people and gave all spiritual and religious pursuits a very, very wide berth as often as I possibly could.

Here in Antigua, Guatemala, we have been in the midst of some elaborate religious rituals, and it has been wonderful to witness such a colourful and theatrical display of devotion to the story of Jesus through art, costume and music.

I’ve enjoyed it immensely, mostly as an outsider observing a tradition which is very new and foreign to me, but also on a deeper level.

For the first time, the Easter story is taking on a new meaning to me and the themes of destruction and renewal are making their presence felt in my life.

We have had some great moments here in Guatemala, but for the most part, our time here has been really freaking hard. Our expectations, hopes and plans have all suffered a slow death in order to make way for the reality this journey has brought.

It’s not a bad reality, it’s just not the one I imagined before we set off, and it has been difficult to let go of how I hoped things would go.

Tyrhone’s flying dream has been put on hold indefinitely until new parts arrive from Europe, and it has put a dark cloud of uncertainty and stress over our experiences here. We have under-prepared and overspent and it’s left us with very little enthusiasm for continuing our journey south as we originally intended.

I have tried to reclaim my sanity by getting out and about as often as I can, exploring the city, meeting people, going to yoga and my recovery meetings, but on Friday, Good Friday, it all came to a head within me as I was overcome with doubt and dissatisfaction about the way things were.

I went to a morning yoga class, then made my way into town to peruse the markets. I love the textiles and handicrafts here and have been looking for some lightweight gifts to send to family and friends back home.

After a brunch at one of my favourite local eateries, ‘Dona Luisa,’ I stood alongside the crowds near the central square to observe the processions in honor of good Friday.

Emotions whirled within me as I was at once enjoying the celebrations and wondering what the hell I was doing there in the middle of the day in my yoga clothes. I felt completely out of place.

I sought refuge in the church on the square, simply because everyone else seemed to be doing the same thing. I took a seat on a hard wooden pew because my feet hurt. And I stayed for the entire service in loud, passionate Spanish because I felt comforted by the swarms of worshipers who probably had just as much if not a lot more uncertainty and doubt as me.

I felt at home among those people and even though I couldn’t understand much of the service, it didn’t really matter.

I did catch the words “Borrachera, prostitucion y extorcion!” (Drunkenness, prostitution and extortion), and assumed they were things we were meant to avoid.

Sitting inside that beautiful old church, among my fellow human beings who probably had as little clue about life as me, I felt the suffering within me transform into something I welcome on the odd occasion it finds me – humility. In my internal turmoil, questioning and sadness I found a connection with the story of Jesus’ suffering and that of every living being on the planet.

That evening my turmoil waged a war within me and came erupting out all over Tyrhone. He weathered my storm and gave me space while I continued to emotionally self-destruct in the fetal position on the couch. Everything seemed grim. I feared the future, doubted the path I was on and every other imaginable negative thought came to rest in my psyche.

I was under attack by a mental and emotional storm and sought refuge in future-tripping – things I could do and decisions I could make which would get me out of it – not realizing that none of them were actually my solution.

Then, like all storms, it blew over.

A glimmer of light shone through the dark clouds, and I saw that the clouds were in fact the creation of my warped thinking and not of reality itself.

I wept with the knowledge that somehow, I had been relieved of my fear and doubt.

I was filled with gratitude, yet again, for Tyrhone’s strength and patience through all of my storms he has weathered, standing strong and tall like an ancient Ceiba tree.

A little shame started to creep in, but I took refuge in the peace I felt after walking through the storm. It was different to going through the motions and trying to adopt a positive attitude as I had been trying to do for weeks.

It was real peace. An acceptance of all that is, including my broken thinking and my inability to distinguish self-perpetuating stories from the truth. An acceptance of my need for a loving higher power to guide me rather than my own mind.

That night, Easter Saturday, I already began to feel renewed. While I sometimes wish it didn’t have to happen in such a dramatic fashion, for me, it does.

It always does.

Because growth hurts, and unfortunately, there is no path of least resistance when it comes to transformation. It hurts, but if we hang on, taking refuge in the suffering of our fellow man (or in Jesus’ if it floats your boat) and realise it is a rite of passage of being human, we will be renewed.

Today is Easter Sunday.

Whatever you believe, today is a chance to start anew, to leave behind the past, embrace a new lesson or adopt a new attitude. To ask to be relieved of the bondage of our own limiting thinking.

Every day we are given this chance, but for some reason, I feel that truth more keenly than I have before.

Happy Easter Sunday everyone.

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Destruction and Renewal: Experiencing Easter in Antigua, Guatemala — 19 Comments

  1. As non religious as I am, we’ve spend more time than I ever have in churches this holy week. As you know there are about 50 in San Cristobel, so you’re never far from one. I’ve found them lovely places to have a sit down and just take sometime out of the day. What Jesus intended, who knows?

    I’ve never really thought about Easter being about new beginnings before but I guess every day is a day to start again. And eat chocolate, because we all know THATS the real meaning of Easter.
    Kellie recently posted..Palenque ruins – not just some falling down buildings…My Profile

    • Yes, I did a fair bit of sitting in that yellow church on the square and found it very peaceful! The best we did was peanut m&ms… pretty lame!

  2. I was brought up as a Roman Catholic for 14 years, and even as a wee 5 year old I remember thinking is this for real? My thoughts haven’t changed much, but I have developed a fetish for churches, I dragged Kellie to most of the churches in San Cristobal, there is just something so calming about them. I can sit for an age, and I’m rather impressed by peoples absolute faith despite me lacking it.

    Anyway, this comment is rather long and rambling and so far doesn’t relate to much you have said… I’m glad the storm blew over and you have the flan eater as a patient supporter. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that things go your way from now on. Happy chocolate day!
    Rob recently posted..Palenque ruins – not just some falling down buildings…My Profile

    • Thanks Rob! I am imagining you defecting from the church as a nobbly-kneed 14 year old! Hehe! Bet they are glad to have you back, if only as an observer :-) Happy Easter!

  3. I love that you could find the message in what was going on around you, even though it was an ideology very far from yours.

    I have noticed that in March and April every year there’s this massive amount of change. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hell, but without fail, every year at this time, there’s this painful growth going on everywhere. Am I the only one who’s noticed that?
    Karyn @ Not Done Travelling (formerly plasticsux) recently posted..Should You Get Your Photo Taken With A Baby Gibbon In Thailand?My Profile

  4. Beautifully written and shared. I’m glad to hear you came through the storm looking forward to renewal. My Good Friday was also pretty bad but more from external influences pretty typical of life in Mexico. However, like you after my melt down I was able to see it for what it was and chose to use Easter Sunday as a day to rejoin the masses with no hard feelings and no regrets.
    sarah recently posted..Feeling Beat Up And Screwed Over On Good Friday-Anyone See The Irony There?My Profile

  5. As I read your story, I immediately thought of a quote (not the exact one, I had to look that up!). I know you love her, too, so I’ll share it even though I’m sure you’ve read it.

    “I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me–that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.”
    ― Anne Lamott

    The mess is part of the renewal. Thanks for this lovely post.
    Carmel recently posted..GHOSTS OF HISTORY IN HO CHI MINH CITYMy Profile

    • Thank you SO much. This brought me to tears. I am always aiming for certainty, so doubt completely throws me off kilter! But the truth is we are never really certain of anything, and just need faith that we will be taken care of, no matter what. I needed this today and can’t thank you enough for sharing it! Much love to you my friend!

  6. I love it when our ideas about religion are challenged. I used to be very cynical about religion too, but then I experienced religion in a totally different way (too long a story to disclose here, but not dissimilar to your post), and it blew my mind. I guess by being closed to religion, I was committing the same mistake as the “narrow minded religious people” who frustrated me so much. Great reading, and thanks for sharing!
    Tim | UrbanDuniya recently posted..Sushi-ya: Sydney’s Deliciously Special SushiMy Profile

    • Yes, that is exactly how I feel. I was closing myself off out of resentment and fear, instead of being open. Now, everything has changed and I see almost everything in a new light!

    • Yes, I am pretty lucky, even though I don’t see it sometimes. Honestly, my only problem in life is me! But this low has really given me some important lessons and I am so, so, grateful to be on a more peaceful and accepting path. Much love to you.