In the holiday context, Easter scores poorly. It lacks that reckless abandon that allows guilt-free partying we see over Christmas. It’s too early in the year. People are still nursing financial stab wounds, thanks to ‘New Year bills’.
As a kid, Easter was incredibly boring. It meant forty days of morning and evening mass. Then Mass on Good Friday, Mass on Holy Saturday, Mass on Easter, and Mass on Easter Monday. Other than the inverted thrill of missing school on Fridays and Mondays, none of my friends would scream, eyes bright with excitement: It’s Easter, man!
Plus, that whole Easter Eggs-and-Bunny thing is still quite Western. If that’s an Easter tradition, it makes little sense in our village. At home, eggs either meant hatching chicks or a fried delicacy if someone came down with a bout of flu, or the deadlier Malaria.
My birthday falls on April 7th. I’m turning 39.
A birthday overshadowed by implied suffering and mourning around the gruesome crucifixion of The Messiah inspires a bit of introspection, not celebrations. As I flipped years off the calendar, my Easter birthday has become the ‘Turn-Around’ point on my annual financial calendar.
Think of it as my ‘New Year’.
In a harsher replication of The Messiah’s case up against Pontius Pilate, I suffer a ruthless self-examination around my sins since the previous Easter. Majorly, financial sins. An examination of my financial state - talk of financial errors, defaults on financial targets, and drafting of new goals for the next year.
This year’s birthday feels considerably heavier, and for many reasons.
Turning 39 is scary, for it’s just a short sneeze to the age of 40. In my 20’s and 30’s, that magical age seemed like forever, and every other goal was pinned on 40. Oh, I’ll retire by 40. Oh, I’ll travel around Africa by 40. Lots of fancy dreams. Here we are, just a year short of 40.
For me, Easter is about compassion. It’s not about some judicial trade-off, poetic justice that requires ‘life for life’ sacrifices. Easter is about redemption. An incarnation at its barest, unrestrained love for human life, and extreme compassion that empties herself completely, out of love, just to accompany us when we are at our weakest.
It’s also about the cruelty that humanity is capable of. I’m not at all sure it was meant to be so.
Yes, I do believe meaning emerges when God remakes the fragments of what’s been broken; but I don’t believe in an ultimate need for Jesus Christ to die in that horrendous way, as a sort of “rescue plan” for an increasingly errant humankind.
I rather tend to see it as a starkly realistic image of what often happens to goodness here on Earth, how people hurt each other. And that’s definitely an ugly image hard to look at. And for me, it also completes the circle of incarnation: a God who cries, agonizes, and ceases to breathe - yet rises from the ashes stronger, like a divine phoenix.
The victory over the void right after, the deathly abyss. In the context of humanity made in the likeness of God, it’s about the paradoxical strength in weakness. Human beings can overcome any obstacles laid in their paths, innate or habitual weaknesses. One can overcome anything with some drive and purpose.
Me? I’m perturbed and perpetually in battle with a singular monster - POVERTY.
Easter is a time to review financial strategies, targets, and short and long-term goals. It’s time to either ditch or build on existing financial goals.
Do you know why the date for Easter keeps shifting from year to year?
Well, In the Western church, Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon that falls on or after the spring equinox (March 21st). So it is determined on a formula based on lunar cycles. So it is always somewhere between March 22 and April 25th on the Gregorian calendar.
Now you know.
At this age, it is time to be real - at least to myself. To a year devoid of lies and pretenses. While utterly grand, annual vacations and staycations are not my thing. Maybe, it is an influence from my background which had little of that. As kids, money always seemed tight and we did just fine with school holidays.
Besides, I’m the firstborn. Since my father passed on a couple of years back, I’m increasingly assuming the default father’s roles.
For the last five years, I’ve had a vacation savings plan. It’s highly effective, a monthly check-off bank arrangement into a vacation account at my Sacco. My annual leave usually falls in September - the perfect vacation month - but, something always seems to come up that needs that money more.
In 2019, my wife had just left her job and started a grocery and cereals business. That year’s vacation money ended up in her business. In 2020, I was behind on school fees. In 2021, the infamous pandemic. In 2022, we had to bring my wife’s business back up.
I’m certain that in September 2023, that money will not be spent on sandals, swimwear, delicious Viazi Karai, and Madafu on some exquisite beach in Diani. I’ve read of that destination in anticipation, of sand so white it's blinding. How do people enjoy the sheer prospect of going blind?
On my birthday, I’ll change the Vacation Money Savings account into something realistic. Something that means the money still remains in the ‘20’ section of my 50:30:20 Budget Rule. Say, consider options in insurance, government bonds, or the Money Market Funds. I’ll check for options.
At some point, everyone deserves a break. If a career bandit nailed to a wooden cross alongside Jesus earned forgiveness, well…... Don’t be so hard on yourself, live a little. My 40-year goals seem a little far-fetched, but against all odds - I’ve kept the ship afloat. I deserve it.
I’ve always craved a bike. At 39, it’s now or never. We have a family car, but it’s mostly used by my wife at her cereal business, and the kids. I have little independence. A bike is practical - cheaper to acquire, run, and packs twice the thrill.
On April 7th, I’ll walk into a used bike dealership and ride out with a Yamaha R1. It’s anything but modest, and you’d be tempted to ride off into the proverbial sunset. What’s humbling? A used 2013 model in prime condition fetches half a million. They agreed for a half-payment deposit. Of course, I’ll have to raid the Vacation Savings account, and shop around for a manageable personal loan, to get it.
I know my wife will absolutely go nuts. I’ll casually talk of ridiculous Spa charges I’ve seen on our credit card! You’ll be surprised how expensive nails and facial scrubs can get.
Happy Easter, ladies, and gentlemen. Go live a little!