He sits beside me and tries to rein in all sixty-three of his jittery pounds, his brown hair uncharacteristically tamed save for the Alfalfa-like rooster tail, his dark eyes dancing about for a clock that isn’t there. He lifts his head to my ear and whispers, “How much longer?”
Not long, I tell him, and then I remind him it’s Easter and that Easter is an Important Day. On such occasions, preachers are generally inspired to preach a little more.
He nods and resumes his twitching, pulling at new khaki pants he does not like and then tugging at a clip-on tie he likes even less. My son understands Important Days, he just doesn’t get why he has to dress so fancy when they come along.
The congregation stands to sing. He welcomes this as an opportunity to stretch his legs and climbs atop the pew, his tiny hands clutching my shoulder lest he tumble. The voice in my ear is high and clear. My son knows this song well, standing on his tiptoes to nail the UP, then on to say how it was from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes.
We sit when the last notes are struck, he on my left and my wife and daughter on my right. The fidgeting resumes once the sermon begins. “Why’s the preacher gotta use such big words?” he whispers, adding that “Jesus never used big words and that’s a fact.” He resorts to drawing pictures of dogs and Lego men on the back of a church bulletin.
The father in me says I should put a stop to this, it being the most important Important Day. But the dad in me says no. Let him draw a Lego-ized Darth Vader over the prayer request for Widow Roberts’ upcoming medical tests. Let him fidget and tug at his tie. My son knows what Easter means as well enough as he can. The depths of it, the true meaning, is something yet beyond his grasp. That will come later, when he’s me.
Later, when he is sitting in a church pew with his own children. When he’s trying to listen and they’re trying to bide their time until they can go play in the mud and the grass. When he’s hearing of God’s sacrifice for a sinner like him and finally understanding just how great that sacrifice was and how wondrous that love still is.
On that some distant tomorrow he will look upon his son as I look upon him today, and his secret thoughts will be my thoughts now—that the love he has for his child is such that hell itself could not stand between them, that he would go to any lengths to protect his child from harm, that he would give up his own life before sacrificing a mere drop of his own son’s blood.
To sacrifice his own child for the undeserving? Never. To a father, that would be love turned upside down.
And yet here we sit, all of us, listening to the preacher and his big words that Jesus would never use, celebrating the fact that we would always be together. Reveling in the fact that death is now not an end, but merely a passing to a better shore.
All because of a Father’s love that was turned upside down so it could pour forth.