“...and it was even grosser and uglier than that. The Bible says that he was beaten so badly, to the point that he didn’t really look like himself anymore.” We sat on the floor of our living room surrounded by enough chocolate and candy to satisfy a little army of children. The sugar rush seemed to take hold instantly mixed with the releasing anticipation of Easter morning finally arrived. My kids, as I imagine most kids, light up with excitement and a particular joviality belonging only to a few days positioned throughout the year: birthdays, holidays and the onset of summer. I absolutely love it, too. They are particular little celebrators who like to take in the moment and deliberately ease into the cause for grande occasion. Routines, habits, traditions, all honored and revered in their little hearts. It makes my heart sometimes rushed by responsibility and dampened by ‘reality’ slow to their pace and come alive similarly. No rushing through presents or traditions or out of what they’ve waited as patiently as they can for.
I especially love these moments with them. Our time together in memories creating and lasting forever. They’ll look back to our time together, when it is no longer just us, from a time ahead when they are doing the same with their own little families and draw from our experiences happening now.
And in the midst of celebrating holidays, all excitement, anticipation and happiness involved, I make sure to plant deeply and water the cause for such spectacle. I try my best, at least.
This particular Easter morning we woke to skies clouded and rain falling, presenting the perfect opportunity. After getting through the exhilaration of our morning egg hunt where no nook or cranny inside of the house was out of bounds or off limits and them finding new fishing poles laid out as family gifts next to their Easter baskets, we sat, ate more candy and talked a bit longer than usual.
“Easter is all about grace, God making everything wrong with us right and okay.”
Even though my daughters are young, they understand more than I often give them credit for. This time the morning rested lazy and easy. Rather than oversimplifying our conversation, I read more than two chapters straight from my Bible as they sat nearly spellbound despite sugar rushing through those little veins of my own.
They asked about the gory punishment inflicted on Jesus, sat still both captivated and horrified by the details of crucifixion, wondered aloud why people were so mean to him and wanted to know what happens when they do wrong ...if they keep doing wrong. We’ve talked about grace before, but our morning conversation then presented a more concrete understanding.
A seed planted now being watered. I pray roots dig deeply into their hearts and fruit of understanding and grace, action and choices, hangs ready on their growing branches.
“God wants you, and everyone, to go to Heaven. That’s why he allowed Jesus to die for us, even though he knew we’d all make mistakes and do wrong.”
Grace :: favor rendered by one who need not do so; exemption; a reprieve.
I want them to understand grace deeply. An infinitely important goal determined in my life as father to my little girls is to establish grace and acceptance in their lives. I never want God misunderstood in their minds and unaccepted in their hearts as a distant judge somewhere in the sky just waiting for them to mess up. He's right there in our mess. He wants all to have heaven. All to receive grace and everything wrong with us right and okay.
Grace and acceptance will mature only as I continue cultivate the soil of their hearts and nurture their stretching branches that will bear and hold fruit. I think of parenting as I think of my own heart. A garden needing constant attention.
As questions slowed and our conversation widened, my oldest asked, “What about bad words?”
“You know, the ‘sh’ word and the ‘b’ word,” she knowingly stated. “Gotcha. And the ‘f’ word, right?” “Whoa, NO!! That’s horrible, dad!!!”
Funny how kids zero in on what they deem the most important. Not murder or cheating or stealing or lying, but bad words. This is why I love these times so much. They give time for their hearts to readily open and just pour out.
“Those are just words used to mean bad things. The words themselves aren’t bad. It is the way we use them and how we use them. It all starts in our heart. The words don’t matter as much as why and how we use them.”
So to further teach them, we read from Matthew 5:22 and talked about the power of how we use words. To top it off, I said one of the cuss words my daughter alluded to out loud.
Deafening silence, eyes wide and jaws agape.
For me, parenting sometimes requires slight risks and complete honesty. To ensure they understood why I cussed out loud, we briefly looked up the meaning and definition for a couple of the words. They learned that those words actually do have real meaning, but due to misuse and bad intentions, those words hold bad meanings. I explained that I don’t use those words because of how they are commonly used to mean bad things and because I simply do not need to, there are far better words to use.
My aim in this teaching was deep and far reaching. It was a matter of beginning to set right understanding in their hearts, that Christ died for them specifically and grace redeems their hearts affecting their actions. Not the other way around. All too often, the mistake of our actions making us acceptable to God lingers and holds prominence over grace freely given and capably finding.
The only way to grace is through the mess.
“Any questions, girls?”
They looked at each other for a moment and then simultaneously burst into infectious giggles. It will stand as one of the best conversations we’ve had to date.