I think about the question of honesty regularly with regards to my son and the parenting choices I make. As he learns and grows—at such a formative age in his life—what he perceives to be true versus not will make a huge impact on him from here on out. While sometimes I’d like to come up with a fantastical reason to convince Aidan to do one thing or refrain from another (i.e. staying out of a certain room because monsters reside there, or eating his vegetables or else he won’t grow big and strong), I fear such a contrivance bears a lie that would do more hurt than help in the future. Some things can wait to be broached at a more appropriate age, whereas other fundamental things require immediate honesty. For instance, regularly dealing with the loss and grief that surrounds death, as a pastor I encounter more than a few people who at a young age were instilled with information regarding death that is either untrue or significantly shades “truth” in a certain harmful light. This makes for additional unnecessary difficulty when, in a funeral, I try to speak honestly about the pain of death followed by words of hope and promise that conflict with what a person has been taught or learned (usually through movies or music) and believed to be true. Therefore, with this instance, I want my son to acquire a healthy truth regarding death that will not add to his pain in such situations nor leave him further confused, if not devastated, later in life.
All of this is to say: For honesty’s sake, you need to take your child to attend not just Easter morning worship, but the full Paschal Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. If honesty is something you hope and strive for in your child’s life—a quality you want them to possess and practice—and you believe the Christian faith proclaimed at church to be relevant for all of life, than it’s worth considering taking your child to these three unique services in the liturgical year as formative for their faith rooted in healthy honesty. Honestly, those who regularly opt out of these critical worship services in the church year, suffer immensely from a faith that is impartially informed: missing the critical stories of Jesus washing the disciples feet, the Last Supper, Jesus’ praying in the garden, his arrest, trial, scourging, crucifixion, death, and burial—all of which importantly preceding the joyous proclamation that “He is Risen!” Without entering into these holy (wholly) necessary parts of the gospel message, our children (I believe many of us stand as evidence) are not given an honest interpretation to the very real parts of life which we each come to question at one time or another. In their absence, we fall prey to filling in the gapping holes with folklore that is either untrue or faints miserably in comparison to the hope and promise offered by God in the Crucified and Risen Christ Jesus. In their engagement, we learn, grow, and wrestle with how our faith intersects with daily life. We come to see honestly the demanding call of discipleship in Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet. We come to learn the honest beauty of Holy Communion which we practice each week as we hear Jesus give this gift to his followers. We come to acknowledge and begin understanding the full pain and suffering Jesus underwent in the final hours of his life. We come to know death for what it really is—and not just what we want to pretend it to be. We come to feel a wealth of emotions we otherwise too often try to avoid. We come to be transformed by the love of God in Christ for us. In hearing these stories and engaging them through proclamation, song, prayer, and sacrament, we are given an honest look at who God is, how God comes to meet us in our daily lives, and why God gave his Son into death for us.
Without Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday—altogether—honestly, none of the rest of it matters. At your child’s baptism, as a parent, you made a promise to bring them to the word of God. Even these difficult pieces of the story we wish we didn’t have to hear remain the word of God. Though we may often want to shelter our children from the tough parts of life, don’t we want them to learn, live, and love in honesty? They may not pick up on every little detail, but honestly kids pick up on far more than they are often given credit. This next week, try taking your child—no matter their age—to Maundy Thursday (3/24), Good Friday (3/25), and Easter Sunday (3/27). Engage with them on what they heard, saw, and thought. Honestly, it may be one of the best things you could do for them.