“I have a question I’m scared to ask,” said eight year-old Elijah after our reading of the parable of the ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom. “I am afraid,” he went on “that just saying it is a really bad sin.”
“O.k.,” I gulped, inwardly ransacking my brain for an age appropriate explanation of the term virgin, just in case.
“What is it?” I finally managed to respond calmly.
“Well … what if, I mean… wonder if the scientists are right? What if there is no God?”
“H-m-m,” I lingered, not expecting to have to answer this question so soon. Not expecting doubt and logic to creep in at such an early age, and highjack the trusting nature of my son. “That is the essence of faith,” I weakly offered. “To believe what cannot be seen.” And at that moment, I wanted to force my conviction through him but I could clearly view his soul apart from mine, resistant to being commandeered by another. I saw for the first time, with excitement and trepidation, Elijah’s struggle for a faith of his own.
How will he understand and absorb this Pascha that Christ is Risen, when our street looks the same, when kids at school are still mean, when our house remains cluttered with dirty socks and colored pencils? How must I live in order to validate our Church’s song of Resurrection? What can I offer, neck deep in the logistics of raising a family, that would stand out and affirm to my children that death has been trampled, that our chains have been loosed, and that our purpose for living has been defined with piercing clarity? How will he know Christ is Risen, when I am still the same sinful and flustered mom that I have always been?
And it’s not just Elijah or his brother and sisters, but also my neighbors, my acquaintances, the strangers I randomly come into contact with who are summing up my values by my actions at that moment. Who are culling fact from chatter by my love or lack thereof. Christ is Risen! What does that look like? How is my world different because of it? I wonder, now, if I no longer ask the difficult questions because habit outweighs my ideology; because my faith has literally been thrown on a to-do list to be checked off with each Scripture verse read and feast celebrated. “What if there is no God?” I never pause to ponder or second-guess.
My little doubting Thomas, reaching for nail holes, brings me to shame with his quest for the Truth; for the real God, not a pocket sized deity created in man’s image to pull out on a whim at our convenience. I don’t want to check-off Pascha and move on. So I ask myself, for the sake of my family, for the sake of my neighbor, for the sake of my relevance as a follower of Christ, “What will I do with the reality of a risen Savior?” The apostles gave up every earthly comfort to spread that Gospel message. Monastics turn from worldly ambitions to devote their bodies, minds, and spirits to prayer. Martyrs boldly declared their devotion by offering theirs lives as a sacrifice. I could, and certainly should, at least reassess my priorities to reflect my position on the one thing needful and authenticate my Paschal cry: “Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen! Crawl out of your grave,” I must remind myself, “and dance with contagious and unselfconscious joy!”
“You should never be afraid to ask us anything,” I tell Elijah later on. “It is good to search, and wrestle with those doubts so your faith will be genuine, not just a hand-me-down from dad and me.” I wanted to go on, then, and say I was sorry for my excessive worry, for my lack of patience, for skipping blessings before meals. I wanted to explain my misguided attempts at training him to “fit in,” at brushing off chances to really listen because there is so very much I want to accomplish, so much busywork to distract me from the nudging of the Holy Spirit. But enough with the words, enough with the lectures, he will know that Christ is Risen when that Truth swallows and digests our household, when he witnesses first-hand that even sinful and flustered mothers can rise above logistics, and capture Heaven through the cross.
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