“Today is a very important day to be friend’s with Jesus,” I told James. It was early, too early, even for Good Friday. I could barely open my eyes, my frustration over not sleeping at the cusp of outburst. He stared at me, and look terrified. The serious sound in my voice made his eyebrows super tall. And those big brown eyes were all the way wide open. “Ok,” he said softly. I began to feel bad. It is not his fault that he wakes up early and has to poop. It is also not his fault that Rita’s inability to roll back over, and Josie’s fever kept me up most of the night. He doesn’t even know about it. He had slept soundly for many hours straight, and even though the sun was still sleeping, this kid was ready to seize the day. Yet, the tone in my voice expected him to know, and understand. It was a pretty tall order for a kid who spends most of the day playing with matchbox cars, spilling things, and pulling his sister’s hair. I was about to apologize and attempt explaining why Jesus could use a little niceness, when he continued. “Ok, I will be a good friend to Jesus and invite him to play.” I felt relieved, and proud. Even if he knows little about the crucifixion, he understands friendship. And on a day with so much anxiety, blood, and death, it was nice to hear him extend such an innocent invitation. Then, he continued. He pointed his finger with every word, and burrowed his brow, “But, also, Mr. Potato head. He has to come too.” Somehow, that silly little sentence put me right back where I needed to be on this Good Friday: in reality, and in control of nothing. James is three. He is innocent and pure, even when he bites Josie, and gets out of time-out. I thanked God for his imagination, and hoped one day I could understand freedom in the way that he does. I looked at him, he looked at me. I wanted him to know how much I loved him and how funny he is, how he has forever changed my life, humbled me, taught me how to love, frustrated me, made me laugh, and showed me the real path to God. He smiled, and batted his pretty, pretty eyelashes. “Can you get me some juice, mom?” As I poured his juice, I looked at him again in his desperate and concentrated effort to make Buzz Light Year stand up on the table. “Juice! Thanks mom!” he said, as he did some weird, unrhythmic juice dance. Freedom: its what Good Friday is all about. And children, they are the ones who have it. I interrupted his bad dancing and gave him a hug. “You’re welcome, James.”
As James managed to bring me out of myself and into a moment of reflection, I began to think about the long road to Calvary. For me, the fourth station is the one that gets me the most. It’s Mary’s last gaze alone with her son. In one moment, one single, steady, and intentional look, a mother and a son speak volumes in silence for all eternity to ponder. Their eyes, fixed on each other, telling stories of acceptance, perseverance, and permission, acknowledgement, empathy, pain, and encouragement. There is a longing to take the other’s place, and comfort each other’s wounds, both visible and invisible; the obvious and the hidden. In that instance, all of their memories are contained from the first time he opened his sweet baby eyes, to when her eyes of fear where calmed by his peace at the temple, or when His apprehension at Cana was made secure with her confidence in God. They are cherished, and become the source to continue carrying a cross that had become so heavy. A lifetime of strength, in just one single stare.
Today, as I look at James, and my girls, while remembering the cross, I thank God for what they understand, and what they don’t. I pray that their innocence will be protected, and draw them closer to God. And on this Good Friday, I say, most of all, thank you to the one who made it all possible.