Romeo & Juliet & Me

Easter is probably my favourite holiday.

There are other holidays pretty high on my list – Christmas is an amazing season of family and joy, July 1/4 is warm and full of barbecues and fireworks, and Thanksgiving is when I get to eat most of my favourite foods in one meal and then take a nap. But Easter…Easter isn’t my favourite foods, we don’t usually see family, half the time it’s snowing, and no one has fireworks.

Easter is my favourite because Easter doesn’t have the bells and whistles other holidays do. I don’t have traditions I fall back on and there really isn’t a ton to look forward to.

And yet there is.

Easter has become a year-marker for me. Sure, January 1 is a new calendar year, February 11 is my birthday, April is when I graduated and got a job…but Easter is a spiritual time marker. For some reason, I seem to figure things out around Easter. In the process of reflecting on the death and resurrection I revisit my faith and my life, and I look back on the past Easters and how I’ve grown or changed since then. Some Easters are big and some are small, but God constantly reminds me just how far I’ve come and how far we still have to go. Easter gives me hope for the fallen world I live in and pushes me forward to love into the next year.

Once, I heard a message at a Good Friday service that struck a deep chord with me. It was about Romeo & Juliet, and I think about it every year on Good Friday. (Don’t worry, you don’t need to know a lot about the play to follow along)

In the most famous scene from the play, Juliet stands on her balcony and laments to the moon with what is one of the most well known soliloquies in Shakespeare’s repertoire:

“Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet

Tis but they name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s a Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot.
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without thy title. Romeo, doff thy name
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.”
– Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2

The premise is that Juliet is lamenting that Romeo is a Montague (“wherefore” means “why”, not “where” – crazy, I know). She begs him to deny that which identifies himself (Montague) and be with her instead. Besides, what point is a name but a word we just call ourselves? If he were to strip off his name he could exchange it for all of her. Similarly, God looks at us and loves us, but he sees the things that keep us from him too. He beckons us to himself – deny yourself and follow me!

We easily fit into Romeo’s shoes, too. He loves Juliet, he looks at her and sees unparalleled beauty and grace…but he can’t get to her. We look at God and we see his greatness, his goodness, his faithfulness … we love that. We love the idea of a perfect God who loves us back. It’s why we sing things like this song that’s been stuck in my head lately:

And You oh Lord made the sunshine the moonlight and the night sky
You give me breath and all Your love
I give my heart to You
Because I can’t stop falling in love with You
I’ll never stop falling in love with You
– Better than Life – Hillsong

God takes it a step further than Juliet did, though. He calls us farther than to just deny our names. He calls us to pick up our crosses, too. Yet we’re just like Romeo – but even more helpless – we can’t get to God ourselves. But in his divine love and mercy and grace He saw our plight, so he sent his son to make a way for us. He loved us so much that he gave his son as a sacrifice for us. It’s what makes Good Friday so good.

Now when he calls us and we respond, we undergo the change Romeo did not. We strip off our old selves and put on a new self, becoming the children of light in a dark world. AND, we get to have all of God, participating in his story. When I think about it that way, it seems like what I gain is worth the price I’ll pay.

This Easter season I’m taking moments to stop and think about how far He has called me to get here, and look forward to where he is calling me tomorrow. Trading in my weary, old identity and finding myself instead in the overflow of his mercy and grace. The forgiveness I don’t deserve spurring me forward into the next year.

This is a God who makes old things new. He breathes life into dry bones and he breathes life into you and me. He’s calling us forward with him – will you come with me and follow?

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