I love being a parent. Sure, there are plenty of hard and thankless things, and I certainly won’t admit to not experiencing frustration, worry, and weariness plenty of times. I still love it though. I welcome the excuse to color, play with Play-doh, build with Legos, and ride bikes. I enjoy watching my kids grow, learn, and discover. Watching each of their personalities and passions emerge is amazing, from the girl who loves justice, to the boy that gets great joy in making others laugh, to the other boy that sees the amazing amidst the mundane, it is just fascinating. I think my absolute favorite thing about being a parent is watching these kids work out their spiritual lives. They have simple, yet profound faith. They wrestle with tough questions, yet have deep understanding. They enjoy security, but are willing to sacrifice. My heart swells when:
- I find them praying when they think no one is watching or listening
- I see them reading the Bible just because they want to
- They lead the way in loving others and standing for justice, caring for the “least of these” by selling their toys to buy uniforms so that children overseas don’t miss out on an education, giving up their favorite treats so as not to support human trafficking, or using all of their birthday money to purchase food for those who have little
- I overhear one teaching another tough theology, like a couple of weeks ago when Ben was helping Jeremiah through some questions about the Trinity
- One takes over explaining something to another, and does a better job than me like when Brianna explained to the boys, after they questioned a song on the radio, why you would want your church to be on fire…”In the Bible, the Holy Spirit is often represented by fire. A church on fire would be one filled with the Holy Spirit.”
- They make statements or ask questions that reveal they’re working through something without my leading, that they’ve been pondering all on their own
One of these heart swelling moments happened last night as we made our way to church. Brianna was reading; Ben and Jeremiah were playing (we have a long ride). I had a CD playing, but wasn’t paying much attention until I heard a voice pipe up from the back seat, “I never do that!” When it became apparent that Jeremiah was speaking to me, I probed. “What will you never do?” “Exchange cross for crown. I not let go the cross!” You see, coming through the speakers was the song The Old Rugged Cross (In case I have previously failed to mention it, I love hymns!), with the chorus that goes like this:
“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it someday for a crown” (Bennard, 1913).
I took some time to explain what the crown means, the glory we get to share with Jesus someday, but he remained adamant that he not let go of the cross. Always the teacher, my first instinct was to keep explaining until he understood, looking forward to the crown, but when I stepped back to see through his eyes and his heart, I realized that he was doing something so many fail to do, sitting in an uncomfortable spot, at the foot of the cross, instead of bypassing it, looking straight ahead to the crown, the reward, heaven. He was and is clinging to the cross instead of overlooking it. He understands, he sees, even as young as he is, the depth of love for him at the cross. Oh to be like him!
I have never shied away from teaching my kids the hard things about the cross. Some may disagree with me, thinking I should have sheltered them a little longer, telling them no more than “Jesus died on the cross for your sins,” but right or wrong, that’s not what I have done. From a young age, they started to hear what dying on a cross meant. I’ve told them about the humiliation. I’ve told them about the crown of thorns, not gently placed on His head, but shoved, thorns sticking into His brow. I’ve told them what it meant to be flogged and had them think about how much it would hurt to have a robe put onto fresh wounds, and then being pulled off to be hung naked, like yanking gauze off a wound after failing to use ointment. I’ve told them about carrying a splintered wooden beam on a back that had been beaten. I’ve told them about the nails. I’ve told them about the struggle to breath. Then, last year at just ages 7, 9, and 10, they watched for the first time The Passion of the Christ, seeing the very things they had heard.
I say this to explain that when my boy says he is not going to let go of the cross, he isn’t simply thinking of a piece of jewelry or a pretty wall hanging. He is thinking of the images he has seen, the explanations he has heard of the one who endured so very much to take away his sin, to make a relationship with God possible for him. How humble his heart, that he would choose to cling to that, to sit with that, instead of looking straight to the reward that awaits him someday.
The crucifixion didn’t last forever. The resurrection came. Soon enough, our celebration of that day will come too, when we will remember Jesus conquering death with life, when we look forward to our own resurrection (Praise the Lord!), when we will think of the hope that is sharing the glory of Christ. Until then though, in this season of Lent that precedes it, maybe it would do us all good to sit in the uncomfortable spot that is the cross, to remember the suffering, the shame, the sacrifice, to recognize the gravity of our sin, to know the depth of love displayed, to say with Jeremiah, “I not let go the cross!”