Ezra has been asking me about Jesus and God quite a bit since Easter.
His most popular question, “Is God dead?” rings in my ears every time he asks. In his sweet 3-year-old mind he doesn’t know, but this is the same question that plagues so many people. “Is God here? Does he know? Does he see me? Is he dead?”
He is talking about the cross, of course. And when I try to explain to him that Jesus did die and then he came back from the dead and then he went up to heaven, he asks me again: “Is God dead?”
We have this conversation at least once a week.
In Ian Morgan Cron’s book Jesus, my Father, the CIA, and Me, he writes about his very first communion as a child. While the other kids goofed off or dreaded the event, he looked forward to it with eager anticipation. For him it was a sacred ceremony, one that he treasured throughout his life. At one point in the book he says that no matter how far he got from his faith or how clouded his view grew, he always used communion as a tether back to God—to remember his covenant, the sacrifice of Christ and the faithfulness of our Father.
When I was 18, I really thought I knew everything there was to know about following Christ.
Follow the rules. Maintain purity. Uphold holiness. Black and White. Good versus Evil. There were two kinds of people in my world: Saved and Lost. And everyone knew who was who.
But slowly doubts crept in. Holes were poked in my ideology. My steadfast faith was deconstructed. My theology was strung out with questions. People who I thought were Godly turned out to be frauds. And all of this happened while I was at the most conservative Christian college, perhaps in America.
What was really happening, and what continued to happen, was an exhibition of grace in my life, an interruption by the character of Jesus. See, I thought I knew him. But really I only knew the stories. And the destination I thought I had reached revealed itself as a journey.
For me that tether of faith has been Jesus. No matter what questions I ask of the Father about suffering and evil and persecution, I’m led back to the words of Jesus of Nazareth—back to the words of a radical.
“Is God dead?” He will ask me again. And I will try to explain it again.
There are these holy moments of motherhood that I did not expect. Sacred moments when I want to remove my shoes. Moments that reveal the goodness of a father and the pure love of a child.
Ezra understood briefly that death was permanent—that when we killed the bug on the porch it no longer moved and lived. But then Jesus threw a ratchet in that understanding. He defeated death.
What Ezra doesn’t know is that Jesus will do this over and over for him throughout his life. Jesus took the order of the world 2,000 years ago and tuned it on its head.
The first shall be last. Blessed are the persecuted. Go pray in your closet in solitude. Give everything away to the poor.
Jesus set a table and invited everyone to come: Pharisees, Jews, Gentiles, prostitutes, government officials, rabbis, fishermen, and even children.
The faith I had when I was 18 was a good one. It was steadfast and it kept me focused. But the faith I have now is deep and wide with stories to tell. It is much more inclined towards grace and less interested in my personal rights. And anytime I get lost in the questions, I can always find my tether back to the man who changed everything. The man who said “Let the little children come unto me.”
I’m the child. I’m the woman about to be stoned. I’m the one coming back to the tomb. I’m the one with questions and fears and sorrows. And I’m the one who finds him in my suffering hanging on the cross next to me.
I have no doubt Ezra will find him too—in his regrets, in his searching and in his questions. He will find the Good Shepherd who left the 99. He’ll find the faithful servant who washes feet. He will find the one who came back from the grave.