[Today’s guest post is from Cara Meredith, with tender and powerful insights on childlike wisdom, mama bears, and the cross.]
“Look, Mama! It’s the God die thing.” We’d just gotten off the freeway when he said it. My husband and I looked at each other across the console of the car, and asked our four-year old son to repeat himself: “What’d you say, buddy?”
“It’s the God die thing. That’s the church where God died!”
All correct theology aside, we watched his sticky little fingers pointed skywards toward a simple but ornate cross on the top of a faded church steeple. We drive past this particular church on the corner of Fruitvale and Harold all the time, but it wasn’t until my little boy pointed it out that I actually noticed the place. I saw the straight lines of metal, the peeling green paint, the delicate leaves of hope and new life, twisting and wrapping their way around the ancient symbol like tendrils.
And it was like I saw the cross for the first time.
My eyes filled with tears, while my husband shook his head in disbelief. Somehow, our son gets it, and microscopic neurons in his brain have connected the basics of Jesus + cross + death. Man, I think to myself, maybe in the midst of everything we seem to do wrong when it comes to parenting, we really have done something right. Grand ideas and beliefs and truths have wiggled into his brain and taken up residence in his soul, and now he’s the one teaching me.
But if I’m honest, I want him to understand the whole story of Jesus now. I want to pull out the Sunday School felt board and build that bridge to God; I want to show him that journey of resurrection, of life after life after death for Jesus and for all who believe. I want him to glory in and focus on Jesus’ life on earth, on how he loved and cared for the poor and the marginalized, and how really, the main part of all of this is that we’ve been given new names.
We are children of God, we are, we are!
This is what I want to shout when we’re stopped at stoplights and sitting around the dining room table and wheeling the shopping cart through Target alike. I want him to see the cross, the absurd and horrid instrument of death Christ died on, but I want it to be the briefest of encounters so we can skip on to the stuff that makes us feel good.
But mostly, I want to tell him the rest of the story so that he doesn’t have to feel the pain.*
It’s me protecting him from the bad. I don’t want him to come from school with news about “Mean Johnny” and “Nice Johnny,” because I don’t want to hear that another child hasn’t dared to see him as I see him – kind, likeable, more than worthy of friendship. And I don’t want to put seemingly insurmountable obstacles like moving and starting over and making new friends in front of him, because I don’t want him to feel the tension of his heart being in one place while his body is in another.
I’m Mama Bear. This is what I’m supposed to do.
But I also know that mama bears also push their kids out of the den. They push them toward the fullness of life. They let their cubs experience the real world, in all its grit and glory.
And they let them sit with the stark reality of the cross, even if it makes them feel uncomfortable, even if it’s not their favorite part of the story.
So, for today, I too am choosing to see the God die thing, even if it’s not my first choice.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24-25.)
* = I’m a seven on the Enneagram, if you can’t tell.
Cara Meredith is a writer and speaker from the San Francisco Bay Area. Co-host of the Shalom Book Club podcast and a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, she is passionate about racial justice and reconciliation, the great outdoors and dinner around the table with people she loves. She holds a Masters of Theology (Fuller Seminary), and can be found on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.