I thought it would be hard to fit Good Friday into Spring Break. I thought it would be difficult to clear space for the cross in a week devoted to beach, pool, and mother-daughter shopping.
I was wrong.
In the car, on our way to the dollhouse store, her voice pipes up from the back seat. It’s hard to hear, the radio too loud, but I know she’s just said something about Daniel. I want her to stop talking. I can’t bear to hear any more about Daniel.
“That’s where Daniel lived.”
“Daniel is gone now.”
“Daniel is the first kid my age to die.”
Then she repeats the words I’ve heard so many times these past few weeks: “I wish I knew what happened.”
My daughter wants to understand how her second-grade classmate died. She wants to know how his little brother died. And how his mother died. We’ve talked about it a lot, but when it comes to the details, I’ve been vague. I’ve spoken of mental illness and accidents. I’ve never spoken the word murder. I can’t bear for her to know how dark the darkness really is.
It’s amazing, really, that she doesn’t know. With all the television cameras camped in front of her school, the grief counselors gathering the children into circles on the floor, the adults whispering at the bus stop, and me, trying to turn the tv off, the radio off, whenever she walked into the room, it’s a wonder that we managed to protect her from the full story. Because, of course, the full story only leads to an unanswerable question: why?
Why did this happen to these beautiful boys? God, why did you let this happen?
The small voice from the backseat says, “Daniel is in the ground now.” With these words, I find my voice again, and I tell her what I believe.
I tell her about Good Friday. I share the word gospel, and I explain that it is so much bigger, so much more beautiful than I understood when I was her age.
When I was a child, growing up in the church, I thought the gospel was this: “I am a sinner so Jesus died and rose again to reconcile me to God. Now I can have a relationship with God.” But I only understood a small part of the story.
My personal salvation is precious to me, but it is only one, small part of the Easter story. When I face evil, like the darkness which led to Daniel’s death, my personal salvation starts to look small. Insufficient. Sometimes, I even dare to whisper this dreadful doubt: “Do I want to be in relationship with a God who allows such things?”
Confronted by the brokenness of our world, I want more … so much more.
On Good Friday, God gave more. He entered history at one, specific moment and he bore on that cross all the brokenness which came before and all the brokenness that comes after. Including Daniel’s murder.
When God’s own son, Israel’s righteous King, chose to suffer and die he unleashed rivers of justice and peace that will one day flood all of creation. This is a kingdom flood. A flood of living water. A flood to make all that is broken whole again.
When Jesus spoke his final words, he meant not only that his ministry on earth was complete, he meant that death, sin, and all the brokenness of creation were ended.
It is finished.
Can we trust him when evil continues to rear its head? Should we turn to him when our questions push us towards despair?
We know that God gave his own son to suffer and die. We know that God did not abandon his son to the grave. I am convinced that he has not abandoned Daniel. He will not abandon me.
He has not abandoned his creation. He is making it new.
Sometimes we see only a trickling fountain. Sometimes we glimpse the roaring river, but we who have pledged ourselves to this King have been given living water.
For now we share that water with our thirsty neighbors, and we look forward to the day promised each Easter, the day when there will be no more desert. No more thirst.
“Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”