I’ve mentioned here several times that I’ve been teaching the Godly Play curriculum to third graders at my church. And, just to be honest here, I still don’t know how I feel about Godly Play. Somedays I love it and somedays I worry it’s too vague for the minds of little children. Somedays I wish our lessons would do less wondering and just come out and say some bold, true things about Jesus.
But, even as I question its effectiveness in the spiritual lives of the children I teach, teaching Godly Play is always a spiritual encounter for me. It speaks a secret language right to my insides. Through Godly Play I’m learning how to tell a profound story and learning how to tell it slow. I’m learning how to unfold a concept that it deeply mysterious and then invite my 9-year-old friends to sit with me in that mystery. Sitting together in a mystery is not an easy thing to do. It requires curiosity. It requires wondering.
This past Sunday I invited my circle of kids into a time of preparing for the “Mystery of Easter.” Lent is a season of getting ready, I said. I held a purple bag full of purple pieces that, when arranged together, puzzled out a cross. I told the story of a Jesus who leaves in sorrow and then returns again in celebration. I placed pieces carefully on the carpet until the cross came to form. Then I turned it over, one piece at a time. The purple was refashioned into white, into Easter.
There are some stories that are too much to cup in our hands. There are some stories that need color.
Purple, the hue of bruises, of kings.
White, the reflection of all colors. The color of celebration.
How do we walk through the purple to get to the white? How do we let ourselves feel the darkness of the cross, our deep and tragic inner brokenness? We are creatures who love and creatures who crush our own relationships, who ruin ourselves and our loves over and over. We are creatures who experience deep joy and still return to our broken patterns of relating. We return to patterns of abuse.
And how do we clean those wounds before covering them? How do we sit in the sting for a while so that we can move into the healing? It’s all a mystery. We can talk all day about what happened on the cross. How did God come to us fully human and fully divine? How did God beat down the powers of darkness in those hours of Christ’s torture? What was the spiritual explosion in the vastness of time and space, the explosion that took place in the body of Jesus Christ? How did the heart of Jesus began to pound again in that dark grave?
Here’s what I heard in the words of that third grade story I told. We are getting ready to watch God turn everything inside out and upside down. We are getting ready to see the purple of our pain undone into vast white.
The Mystery of Easter is coming, friends. And we have six weeks to get ready.
The sweetest things in faith are invitations. Lent is not a command. Lent is only a practice some humans thought of hundreds of years ago. There’s no demand there, no guilt. You may have practiced Lent for a long time and you may only now be tip-toeing into it with uncertainty.
Wherever you are in this, whatever your story, Lent is an invitation: to recognize the purple in us, those deep bruises, those reckless wounds we’ve received and handed out. Lent is the season for remembering how much we need Mystery: Christ on the cross, our sin exploding out across space and time and evaporating into the cosmos, collected by the One Who Collects Us. We are invited to let Lent clean the wound so Easter can bring the healing.
It’s a mystery and we’re all invited.