Sunday, March 28, 2010

the value of a difficult story

Yesterday morning in Godly Play we worked with the lesson "The Faces of Easter." We've been working with this lesson for all of Lent, building more and more of the story every week. The materials are made up of seven rectangular pieces of wood, each with a different "face" of Jesus - the baby, the boy who was lost, the baptism, the wilderness, the healer/teacher, the last supper, and then the last piece which is painted on both sides: the crucified Jesus, and the Resurrected Christ holding the elements of the Eucharist, bread and wine. The way the lesson works is that each week of Lent we tell more of the story - so the first week we just hear about the baby. The second week we hear about the baby and the boy. The third week we hear about the baby, the boy, and the baptism and so on.

So Palm Sunday is the day when we hear the whole story. And as the storyteller it's sort of a tough day, because it is a tough story. It's not a small thing to face a circle of 6-10 year olds and tell a story where a good person is tortured to death. They take it seriously. They find it shocking.

So, each year when this story comes around I have to ask myself: why tell it?

I think there are two reasons why I love to tell this particular story. First because it is true. Second, because they get it. Maybe even better than I do.

So the truth thing. I'm not so much talking about literal, scientific, historical truth. There may be elements of that to this lesson, but that's not the sort of truth I am concerned with. I tell this story - the difficult story of Jesus' death and resurrection - because it conveys what I believe is a central truth about life and God that cannot be told in any other way, not through science or historical fact, etc. This is the story of my faith tradition, the one that all the other stories and narratives - including the narrative of my own life as a person of this faith tradition - connects to and builds upon. It's hard and ugly. And then you turn over the picture and it is nourishing and whole. You can't have the one without the other. It is a truth, and also a mystery.

And every year I wonder if this time someone is going to be traumatized or overwhelmed by the story. But today, like in the past, I looked into the faces of my small friends and realized that kids get this. If anyone knows that the world is scary and unfair, children know it. They are still fresh enough in the world to be close to the harsher discoveries of childhood - that things don't always work out, we can't always get what we want, sometimes the things/pets/people we love die. Kids know all about betrayal. And they know all about miracles and about hope. The more often they hear this story the more its truth will become a part of them. And hopefully the more ingrained their lived knowledge of that truth will become.

So I think about J. And all the difficult conversations we have ahead of us. Some of them are the ones every parent faces. Some of them are unique to families like ours. And some, ones I cannot perhaps imagine yet, will be totally unique to our little family. But I need to remember that what is important is that we are truthful: honest about the ugly parts as well as the nourishing and wonderful parts. She will get it. She will understand. It is the truth about her life, our life, That is the truth and the mystery of our family - of all families perhaps - that you cannot have good without also having the difficult, the darker parts of the story. My faith tradition teaches that even the darkest stories, the most hopeless scenarios, even those hold the promise of new life and resurrection. This week, as those in our tradition move solemnly through the darkness of our story towards the light that is coming on Sunday, I am reminded that all of our difficult stories - when told well and told honestly - can hold that sort of promise in their depths.


  1. thanks for the reminder that joy and hope can come from dark and difficult places.

  2. Thanks, Alissa. I am telling this story to a group of 5 and 6 year olds tomorrow afternoon and your comments are helpful.