*This post was originally scheduled for the day my father-in-law passed away. When he died so suddenly, I pulled it, uncertain of the timing. In the days to come though, we’ve had many frank discussions with our little girls. Somehow, these conversations I managed to scribble down a few weeks prior seemed to give comfort and provide a starting point for the topics to come…
She’d been talking crosses all day.
Right after we settled the tiny one down for a nap, we were in the middle of picking up the house. I scurried about in anticipation of friends dropping by to exchange belated Christmas gifts.
“But, how did they keep him on the cross, Mommy?” She asks abruptly, as if we were mid-discussion.
Not sure I heard her correctly, I turn to meet her eyes. “What, hon?”
“How did they put Jesus on the cross, Mommy?” she continues insistently.
I’m close to her now. Hands on her shoulders, I drop to my knees to be level. I draw in my breath, buying time with a stumbling, “You really want to know, babe? It’s tough…”
I know that this kid, as much as any I have ever met,
needs deserves honesty. It’s just the extent of the detail that sometimes wants tempering…
“Well… they nailed him there,” I answer quietly. Her brow furrows, perplexed.
“Big nails…” I gulp to explain. Her eyes are wide.
I feel my face twist a bit. And my tears wanting to stream.
“And it must’ve hurt really bad. But he wanted to do it. He came to do it… You know why?”
“Why?” Earnestly curious.
“Because he loved us so much. He loved you so much. He loved me that much. So, he was willing… so we could be rescued!” (We love that word around here).
Later that night, as we lay in her bed ready for prayers, being mauled by the clambering two-year old, she continues…
“Which one did he die on?”
“What do you mean?”
“Which cross?! All those ones we see when we drive…which one was his?”
Suddenly, I understand. This girl who watches so intently out the mini-van window as the world goes by…thinks she may have been seeing Jesus’ very own cross in every road side memorial! In the little shrines so present in our town that I almost don’t notice them anymore.
I explain that those smaller crosses are markers in memory of other people who have died- perhaps Christ-followers themselves.
Her questions come faster now. I find myself being urged to explain the three crosses on “that page in her Jesus Storybook Bible,” and realizing with shock that she thinks everyone’s life ends on a cross. Her logical pre-schooler questioning continues on into an exploration of varied ways that people can die. Oh my.
Bedtime when you are four and your mind is electric!
“How do you get to heaven, Mommy?”
She’s a bloodhound sniffing out a trail. She’s pressing me. Certain that this whole cross thing is key.
Then I hear myself talking about telling God we’re sorry. Me. Straight reeking of sinful nature mere minutes after lashing out at my husband and babes in the exhausting “to bed” hustle.
Talking about messing up and forgiveness and about how Jesus is the only perfect. The only way to fix this mess.
To fix us.
“And we can pray and talk to God, right Mommy?” She beams, nodding, and then snuggles in close. Satisfied for a brief moment.
I’m slightly dumbfounded. Her wheels still turn.
Next: “But what were the legs of the manger made out of?” She’s obviously recalling the concrete-stucco trough our pastor produced to show the kids at Christmas Eve service. She grills me for dimensions with her hands spacing, “How big was it? Was it this big? This big?”
I sigh and breathe an “I honestly don’t know, honey. Let’s talk about this more tomorrow, ok? It really is late.”
This year, the connection of the manger to the cross becomes just a little more clear.
We say prayers. Even the tiny two-year old settles, doing her own whispery listing of loved ones.
And the Almighty leans in close to hear their sweet voices lift…