As a divorced, single mother, I feel the need to create new traditions for our reconfigured family. It's a last ditch effort to provide my sons with some happy-normal-we-all-get-along memories of their childhoods. Some traditions, like decorating Christmas cookies together, have been a hit. And some, like the Elf on the Shelf, have been a bust.
A few years ago, I felt our Easter weekend traditions were weak. Sunday was full. Every year we hunted for Easter baskets, went to church, and then had a ham dinner at my aunt and uncles's home. but Friday and Saturday were thin.
However, Friday and Saturday were a little thin. Therefore, one day in the checkout line at Office Max, everyone's go-to place for hit movies, I picked up Jesus starring Jeremy Sisto. My Norman Rockwell Easter weekend began to take shape. On Good Friday, I envisioned us curled up on the sofa in our jammies, bellies full of perch, completely engrossed in Jesus, the movie. No arguing. No name-calling. No electronic devices. Just peace, quiet, and Jesus. In fact, because my fantasy seemed so ideal, I had already decided that Jesus from Office Max would be a Good Friday family tradition for years to come.
On Friday, after threatening to take away the XBOX and ban them from Minecraft for eternity, I finally bribed them with popcorn to gather on the sofas in their jammies to watch Jesus. My Norman Rockwell fantasy sons were a tad bit more excited about the movie.
My fantasy sons said:
Wait for me!
C'mon, Mom, we'll make the popcorn for you. Just put your feet up.
I know we haven't even watched this movie yet, but I hope we can watch it every year. Can we, Mom? Can we?"
“Seriously, Mom, if there are talking vegetables in this movie, I'm outta here."
“Indiana Jones suffers and has a whip. Why can't we just watch that?"
"They pooped in pails back then, right?"
Eventualy we settled in to watch Jesus. And as Jesus was brutally whipped by the Romans, one by one, they snuggled a little closer.
“I don’t want Jesus to die.”
“Why are people just standing there?"
"Don't they see he's a good guy?”
In silence, they watched a struggling, bloody Jesus carry his cross through the crowd and up the hill. As nails were driven through his hands, I noticed a few tears in the boys' eyes. As Jesus hung on the cross, clearly in pain, more tears streamed.
They demanded answers:
“Why won’t God save his son?”
“Why won't someone do something?”
And not unexpected, "He's totally in pain. What if he's got to go to the bathroom up there? That'd be awkward.”
I had originally envisioned my Norman Rockwell fantasy sons moved and touched by the movie, but certainly not as moved and touched as my actual sons had become. I was unprepared for their strong reactions. Had this been a mistake? Would they have nightmares for weeks? They sobbed as Jesus suffered on the cross. I thought, how long is this death scene going to last? My kids are sobbing for Christ's sake. Geezus, Jeremy-Sisto-playing-Jesus, just die already to save my sons.
And that's exactly what he did.
I, too, was stirred by the movie, but even more from the reactions of my children. My oldest looked at me thoughtfully and quietly said, “Jesus’s friends were lucky. They got to see him after he rose from the dead. We just have to believe.”
My youngest was unsure, “I think we might be luckier than Jesus’s friends. We've got toilets.”
Yep. It’s a keeper.