I have a photograph, black and white and softly grainy, of Baby Lucy sitting spellbound in front of her daddy as he plays guitar on a Good Friday morning. The quiet of the hour still steals through image, somehow: sunlight, carpet, subdued strumming.
My own annual observance of Good Friday began in college. Each one since has been different, but there’s always a hush about the day for me — miraculously, even today, since Y’s taken Lucy out to run errands while Little Jo naps.
My chin rests on my knees, and I wonder how we will phrase the goodness of Friday and the glory of Sunday to our small folk this year.
Very often, being a parent means being a storyteller — of tales and adventures by beloved authors, of course, but also true ones about the world and its creatures and intricate workings (and what will happen to you if you tip that chair any further backward, little one).
Time and again, I’m surprised by how well our children understand our explanations. Earlier this year Little Jo trotted over with her Bible and wanted to know who the two people cowering behind a tree were.
“That’s Adam, and this is Eve.”
“Why dey sad?”
“Well, see this tree over here? God put Adam and Eve in the garden and told them they could eat from all of the trees, except for this one. He said, ‘Don’t eat the fruit from this tree.’ But Satan came and talked to Eve, and she did eat it, and Adam ate it.”
Little Jo’s brow creased in concern. Don’t do this and they didn’t listen were concepts she could comprehend very well.
I turned the page. “So they hid. God said, ‘Where are you?’ and Adam said, ‘I…I ate the fruit that you told me not to eat.’ And God had to send them out of the garden.” Her eyes looked up at the sadness in mine, because suddenly the mercy in that act — His refusal to let us live forever in our brokenness — caught me off guard and swelled my throat, and both of us stood still for a moment.
Then she put her head in my lap, and cried.
Oh. A little chagrined at myself, I bent close to her ear and said softly, “But you know what? It’s okay. God is going to come and rescue them. He loves them, and so He won’t be away from them forever.”
And there it is, I realize now. The secret of our peace.
This is a story whose ending we know.
The Fall, the Curse, the Redemption.
Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday.
I walk through our rooms this afternoon, and see that that story is being told in ways beyond the Children’s Bible chapters.
On the sideboard is the salt dough tomb we’ve made, sealed now, to illustrate the length of three days.
Downstairs are the seeds I planted last night, waiting to become nothing and to split open with new and verdant life.
In bed are the children to whom I’ve said, “Good night; I’ll see you tomorrow morning!”: a blessing for the dawn that will end our every night, until the day we each wake into the best morning of all.
Yes, we’re already retelling the story of death and resurrection in more ways than one.
And yet, there are chapters to come where we will need to hear it again.
The day will darken, and our breath will still, and somewhere in a hospital ward, or the cab of a moving van, or a decimated disaster zone, the night may seem unending. As first sorrows pass, the darkness might lift enough for us to see others go on living while all our hope has died, quiet as the evening on which Joseph and Nicodemus prepared Jesus’ body for the tomb.
This is, perhaps, when the retelling of the truest story will matter most.
These are the days of grief and bewilderment. Of learning how deep our wounds run, of realizing that we have repeatedly betrayed and distrusted our King, and of finding out how to die to ourselves as we follow Him to the grave. These are the days when it is an act of faith to set our faces Homeward — but it will not always be so.
So — remind me of the end, please. Remind me of the glorious morning when the earth quaked and the tomb was bare and Aslan shook his mane. We are a generation grown used to telling postmodern stories with little resolution and hapless endings; this is reality, we are told, and the best we we can make of it is bittersweet art. But this isn’t all there is.
The small chapters of our lives, our work, and our art display a thousand renditions of an undying truth — Christ is risen! — and each one is an affirmation that we are not forgotten. Seeds crack open. The sun breaks across the horizon again, and again, and again, and again. His people sing hope from sickbeds and beside graves. He is risen indeed, and we will follow.
May we retell it, then, as long as we draw breath.
May we be alive to each reiteration of miraculous new life and the One who holds it out in pierced hands.
For it’s our knowledge of the end that frees us to live the middle well.