When I was a child I thought like a child

Eleanor Deckert
When I was a child  I thought like a child

I challenged the grandparents at Christmastime: You might be the only ones to tell the story of Jesus' birth. Here we are in the Easter Season. Those same children may have questions that are hard to answer.

That's okay. Keep up the effort. Here are some thoughts which may be helpful to keep curiosity and communication open.
St. Paul mentioned in I Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.” So? It is healthy and normal and good to have these stages of development and travel the Path from little child who listens eagerly, to “What if” and “I heard” confusion, and then doubt and rejection and maybe stubborn refusal to participate... and at last, come to the final part of Paul's message, “When I became a man I gave up childish ways.” As adults, we can read, listen and consider drawing our own conclusions about what we believe.

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me” (Matthew 19:14), and I am sure he meant for those of us with children in our care to put some effort into bringing them to know, love and follow him.

Here are some things I remember from my childhood: We had several storytelling records. David and Goliath on one side. Noah's Ark on the other. William Tell on one side. St. George and the Dragon on the other. There was a narrator, actors' voices for each character, sound effects. Very enjoyable.

The record about Jesus had many beautiful stories: angels and shepherds, fishermen and children, the blind, lame and leprous were healed. But then, the sound effects were too hard for me to tolerate. The lash. The jeers. The hammer. The silence. I left the room and covered my ears. Like all the children I have ever taught, I asked with anxiety in my eyes, “Mommy, why did they kill Jesus?” and just like the chief priests, scribes and elders standing nearby on that dreadful day, I asked, “He saved others, yet he cannot save himself.” Like them I wondered if everyone would have believed if he came down from the cross. “Since he trusts in God, let God deliver him now!” (Matthew 27: 41-43)

As a child, I was so fearful that Jesus was somehow swept away in the current and was in agony at how badly things were going, that Judas' act was unforeseen and a criminal's punishment was such a disastrous way for the story to so quickly end!

As a teenager, I read the four Gospels for myself, walked to Easter sunrise service, memorized Bible verses. I found Jesus' own words in this verse, which answered my question. “I lay down my life... no one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again. This I have received from my Father.” (John 10: 17-18)

As a young mother I taught my children to sing:
“Angel so bright, in garments snowy white, where have they taken my Lord?”
“Be not afraid. He is not dead.
He is arisen as He said.”

As he said? When did he tell his followers that he knew of his own execution? Matthew recalls four times Jesus spoke plainly: 12:40, 16:21, 17:23, 20:19.

I read more about how the Passover in Exodus and many places in the Psalms and Prophets point toward details of the crucifixion. At the darkest moment, Jesus cries out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" This is a direct quote from Psalm 22. When I realized this I looked it up to find many more specific, graphic, agonizing descriptions foretelling the Messiah's suffering.

I got the feeling that Jesus was quoting it both to remind himself that this is the way it has been foretold... and also to let everyone know: bystanders, Mary and all of us in time... that he knows what is happening. He is not lost in the turmoil and pain. He is doing this with a purpose... deliberate... and he willingly walked toward it.

Now I believe that each of us, at some time in our lives, still do the things that led to his death: run away, laugh, turn away, mock, deny, betray, spit, hit, bruise, tug, trip, and in every way we can think of: turn away from God.

"If only someone would come and tell us!" people moan. So he did come. And this is how we responded.

To me, the whole scene is a big mirror. Jesus holds up a picture of what we do to him, so we can see: ourselves. And even at the height of the torture, he speaks again, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
When I was a child, I thought that meant to forgive the Roman soldiers, because they did not know they were hurting the Christ. But now I know, his intention was to forgive all of us!

Holy Week is a significant time which I mark each year. Read, contemplate, walk through the hours, watch a Bible movie, and as always, I make a scene for Palm Sunday, Last Supper, Crucifixion, Burial and Resurrection.

What I did as a child and I teach to children, I still do for my own eyes. There is always new meaning and a fresh gladness: “He is arisen as he said.” (Matthew 28:6)