When I was a teenager, my family spent Easter at King’s Dominion, the amusement park an hour from our house. My father, who hated crowds, explained to us that, “the Christians are gonna spend the day in church. We’re gonna ride the rides when there are no lines.”
We thought he was brilliant.
Fast forward thirty years, and I’ve become one of the crowd who will spend next Sunday morning shouting Hallelujah. I may even wear lip gloss.
If we gave our children the choice, they would pick roller coasters over holy rollers. But we don’t give them that choice. Because as much as I loved my family growing up, and as I much as I loved our Easter-as-Fast-Pass trips to the amusement park, my childhood lacked a story big enough to live in.
We had each other, and we had a sense of right and wrong; but they weren’t enough. I often wondered as a child, Is this it? Even when things were great (and they were often great) I longed for a story that would make sense of where we were and where we were headed, a story that would make sense of the persistent question: Is this it?
I sense that longing in all three of my children. When Ezra’s birthday party goes exactly as his had dreamed it would. After a game where Zach both scores his first header goal and stops a goal over his head, with his foot! After Nafisa buys the latest iProduct. All of these experiences are wonderful, magical even, but they also crystalize an often amorphous feeling of longing.
When I get a whiff of that longing, I tell them that is the part of their being that is made for heaven, the recognition that the many glimpses of glory we see here are still only glimpses. I tell them that they were created for a glory that none of us can fully yet grasp. Nothing else I share with them about God has as visible an effect on their spiritual life as this does. Their eyes narrow and their heads bob with a deep sense of understanding. Their bodies relax in a deep sigh. And we all enjoy a few seconds in the presence of God’s spirit.
Then it’s off to the next thing. Which is why we need Lent and Easter. They slow us down enough to experience the deep sigh of disappointment in life as it is and our joy in the God who is bringing the story to a glorious end.
On Sunday morning, we’ll turn over the final card in the Godly Play story we are telling for Holy Week. Jesus’ experience on the cross will turn into a radiant offer of communion. And then we’ll put on fancy clothes and head off to church. We’ll enjoy the music and the friends. We’ll enjoy hearing the resurrection story. On the way home, though, we’ll wonder if the celebration lived up to all the hype. Was that it?
And I’ll be grateful for the story I live in, the story who answers me with a resounding No.