This morning, a moment of grace happened in my kitchen.
It was one of those rare, special, profound experiences that stops you in your tracks and makes your eyes water and a familiar lump form in your throat and you realize as a parent you are nothing, and that you have so much to learn – especially from your children.
And most of all, you learn that all is grace.
At breakfast this week we’ve been reading out loud the Stations of the Cross from this little book written for kids. [For my non-Catholic readers, the Stations of the Cross is a prayerful devotion that focuses on the fourteen different scenes from the Gospel account of Jesus’ passion and death, starting with his sentence to death by Pontius Pilate and concluding with when He is laid in the tomb.]
This morning, the discussion went much deeper than it usually does. My boys wanted to know all kind of details they had never asked about before: Why do the soldiers all look so angry? Did the crown of thorns really hurt? Why did Pilate want Jesus to die? Where is Mama Mary in this picture? Did Veronica wipe Jesus’ face because he was really muddy? Did Simon the Cyrene live in Charlotte (that’s where we live)? Why did Jesus need help with the Cross? Did Mama Mary get nails in her hands too?
My guess is it’s hard for every newbie Christian parent to figure out how much to tell about the story of Christ’s passion to toddlers and little children. Because this is truth: Christianity is a messy, gory, violent religion. We Christians wear a method of Roman persecution and torture around our necks. We worship a God who gave us flesh and blood and sent anguished, guttural cries up to the Heavens: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
And as parents, we worry about the when and the how much and the how to do it when it comes to sharing this violent, messy story of salvation with our littlest ones.
This morning, I told it to them straight. I answered all their questions honestly, and did not shield them from the mess He endured for our salvation. They soaked it in eagerly, and a little sadly too. My eldest commented “Good Friday is the saddest sad day of the whole, whole world.”
I told them the happy part, too. I told them of Heaven, and our adoption into God’s family. I told them about the mansions that Jesus is preparing for them in Heaven. “My mansion is going to be a CASTLE!” shouted my 2-year-old, Luke.
“Mommy guess who is going to come over to MY mansion?” yells 3-year-old Mark: “Saint Thomas Aquinas!”
The hardest thing for them to grasp seemed to be why Jesus had to have nails pounded into his hands when He never did anything wrong. So I explained to them, it was kind of like if one of them had been very naughty and deserved a spanking from daddy as a punishment, but instead of giving his son the spanking he deserved, daddy spanked himself instead and took the punishment for the child he loved.
They seemed to understand it that way. And then the moment of grace happened.
My three year old, with a mouth still half full of oatmeal and absolutely no prompting from me, began singing Amazing Grace. Specifically the line “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
And as Mark belted out Amazing Grace from his chair, his brother Luke started singing “Mighty to Save” from the other side of the table.
When Luke got to the lines “Jesus conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave” Luke raised his hands in a He-man muscle pose and continued to belt it out “He is mighty to save, He is mighty to save…”
I sat their half dumbfounded as my boys sang their hearts out about Jesus. About grace. About the One who conquered the grave.
Two very different songs, but both of them capture the meaning of this week and the reason we fall to our knees and bow our heads and worship. Because He did it for grace – to make us part of His family – and to show His glory.
My children taught me something important about parenting this morning. They taught me that it’s easy to get caught up and consumed with “stuff” and with “doing” around liturgical feasts and big holidays. All over the internet this week you’ll find stories and how-to’s and print-ables and Pin-ables and craft projects and coloring pages and things to do and places to visit and just lots of do-do-do with and for your kids. All of those things are great and fun. But honestly, I think what they really need – really want – is for us to just BE. To speak truth words to them and let the grace do its work in their hearts, as it does in ours.
Whether you have a Seder dinner tomorrow night, or dye Easter eggs, or fill Easter baskets, or do crafts or projects or field trips…or not or not or do or not. The only thing that we really must do for our children this week is to invite them into the story.
The story of our salvation. The one about grace, and the God-man named Jesus.
Hope y’all have a blessed Holy Week and a super joyous Easter!