When my hands touched the wooden cross set up in the front of the church this Good Friday, I thought first of the violence done to Jesus. Then my heart turned to recent violence perpetrated against a beloved grandchild in what was supposed to be a safe place – then to images of Syrian children facing death and destruction in a horrifically unsafe place. I remembered words I’d written in a novel over 20 years ago, after my step-daughter died of cancer: “Human mothers have more compassion than God.”
At the time, I believed those words. I don’t any more.
I still don’t understand the necessity of suffering, especially for children, but I share Christian Wiman’s intuition that “God is not above or beyond or immune to human suffering, but is in the very midst of it, intimately with us in our sorrow, our sense of abandonment, our hellish astonishment” at what is happening around us.
We are not alone in any of it. God is with us, always. That is the Easter message. But we get there by way of the Cross.
So at a late lunch on Good Friday when this beloved grandchild asked me what we had talked about on “the walk around the block” (our Stations of the Cross through the neighborhood), I told her. She knows the baby Jesus from Christmas, so I explained that this was a day when we remember Jesus as a grown-up to whom very bad things happened, but that he came through it and reassured us that no matter what happens to us, we are loved and treasured. I said that bad things happen to everyone, but that in the long run, good wins.
On our “walk,” members of the congregation had carried posters from Maryknoll that show contemporary images to illustrate each station. The most vivid one for me is Station II: “Jesus Carries the Cross / of a Mayan child’s coffin in war-torn Guatemala.” (Others include Jesus being stripped “of dignity in each naked, abandoned outcast of the world” and Jesus being condemned “alongside Korean youth protesting for justice.”)
I told our granddaughter that we’d stopped to look at pictures of people in trouble and said prayers to remember them and to find ways to help them.
She was quiet. I knew she wouldn’t be at an Easter service, so I while felt compelled to name the reality of suffering to a child recently subjected to suffering, I also knew she needed to hear the promise of goodness, to know that light does shine in the darkness.
Children are resilient – which is its own blessed kind of resurrection. Three days after Easter when her grilled cheese sandwich was too hot to eat, she walked around and around the table waiting for it to cool, and she asked me to sing something as she went by. Her father, at three years old, had asked me specifically not to sing because my voice is so terrible, but she’s more forgiving, so as she circled the table I sang a word or phrase and ended each with “Alleluia.”
And after lunch, she walked out under her rainbow umbrella, singing “Alleluia” into the wind.
How have you talked with children or grandchildren about Easter?