So today is Good Friday and, like so many other families, we are preparing to celebrate Easter with a long weekend off work and a whole lot of chocolate. And I’m excited about that, as is Little Man who has been asking whether it is Easter yet for the past two weeks, ever since we bought his Easter Egg. But I’m unsure about it too. How do I explain the Easter Story and why we celebrate it in a way that is understandable to a 4 year old when I’m not even sure I understand it myself?
If you were to ask me what I believe, I’d reply with “how long have you got?” I don’t feel like I belong to any single faith group or religion, but rather I fall somewhere between (very) liberal Christianity, Paganism, and New Age Metaphysics. I draw my inspiration from such a wide variety of sources and am discovering new ones all the time. My faith is fluid and develops and grows as I do, so how do I even begin to introduce such concepts to my child without confusing him?
I’m not sure I can. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to. In one of my very first posts on this blog I wrote about what I think it means to raise a spiritual child, which included this:
“What if raising spiritual kids is as simple as inviting them into a world of endless possibilities where not having all the answers is more exciting than if we knew it all?”
When I remind myself of this I realise that it’s okay to feel like we’re walking on unsteady ground, finding our way forwards one step at a time. After all, life is a journey and we’re going to lose our way from time to time, but sometimes those detours provide us with wonderful experiences. So instead of worrying about how I might “get it wrong” I’m choosing to focus on simply following my heart and seeing where that leads.
Today it leads me to reading the Easter Story with WB and planning a trip to church on Sunday. We attend a lovely Methodist Church in our area which my Grandma has been a member of since long before I was born. Despite having grown up in a non-religious family, I still know a lot of the congregation through my Grandma and we have been welcomed so warmly every time we have managed to make a service since moving back here.
There is a relaxed atmosphere and everybody rallies around us to make WB feel included in what is going on, which is quite some feat when you consider he is the only child and everyone else is of my parents’ or grandparents’ generation, so the services are not planned to be specifically child friendly! Being part of this community has shown me the deep love and compassion which lies at the very heart of Christianity, and it is this which I am choosing to focus on when looking at the Easter Story with WB.
I remember hearing about Jesus and his crucifixion and resurrection as a child and accepting it as something that happened a long, long time ago. But I didn’t have any context within which to understand it. I had no idea of the symbolism behind it nor that it was central to many of the world’s Christian denominations. It wasn’t until I spent some time at church in my late teens that I realised, with surprise, how crucial this point in the Christian year is (I always assumed Christmas was the high point), and it was another year later when I joined the Christian Union at university that I discovered the idea of Jesus’ death being a ransom or sacrifice.
It was at that point in my life that I walked away from the church. The ideas being presented to me just felt so at odds with my idea of a loving God that I felt unable to stay. Looking back, it was that wake-up call to really see what religion is about (and all that it is not) that led me to set up Spirit Kid Network. Over the past decade I have explored so many different thoughts and ideas about God and religion and it has opened my mind and heart further than I could ever have imagined. And I want to share that with WB.
You see, as a child I honestly thought that a belief in God meant the same thing to everybody, no matter what background they came from. It seems like such a naive thing to think now that I am older. Some of the greatest gifts I’ve ever found have been in exploring the similarities and differences between different points of view and ways of life. And in such a multicultural world where our children will meet people from very different backgrounds to their own both at school and online, I think the ability to be open and honest about what they believe whilst being respectful and interested in what others believe will help them beyond measure.
And for me, this is one of the most poignant messages I find in the biblical accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry – love and respect for all, even those who have a very different life to your own. Whilst I don’t personally accept the idea of Jesus’ death as a ransom or sacrifice, I do believe that he was killed for daring to stand against the crowd, to stand up for what he felt was right, and to do so with love rather than fear. And it was the sheer power of this love which enabled his story to spread far and wide and inspire so many people throughout the ages.
So when I share the Easter Story with WB, this is what we will focus on. We will talk about some of the Gospel stories and how they show us what it is like to love one another. We will think about how sad and hurt Jesus’ friends and family must have been when he was captured and killed. And we will look at how his memory lives on in so many people’s lives today because love is so very important and is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago.
WB is only 4 and I do not expect our discussions to go very far at this stage. He still has no idea about the horrors that are occurring in our world today, how many people are suffering through poverty, ill health, war or violence, and how much love is needed right now. But I hope that by starting this conversation about what love is, the many ways in which it might appear, and why it is so important for us to live with love and compassion even when it feels hopeless, we will start along a path we can walk along and explore together for many years to come. Because if there’s one thing the Easter Story teaches me it’s this – even when it seems that all has been lost, there is always a new day to come!
If, like me, you find yourself somewhere on the fringe of Christianity and want to explore a more liberal interpretation of the Easter Story you may find Modern Church a helpful place to start. I’ve also found the websites for both The Unitarians and The Quakers interesting when exploring my own faith. And if you want to look at the Pagan roots that lie in a lot of our modern day Easter celebrations and the many ancient myths that are seemingly linked to it, this article from The Guardian has a great overview.