I will love watching their little faces in the morning as they dump their baskets onto my clean living room floor and stuff their cheeks full of jellybeans before breakfast when they think I'm not watching.
But what I love even more is that - for Rachael, at least - the bunny and the baskets are not what will make them happiest this Easter.
You see, Rachael and I have been doing a lot of reading this week. Four books, in fact, and all of them were pretty much the same. They weren't books that I would have wanted her to read on her own - not just yet, since the content was...well, pretty much inappropriate for a seven-year-old. In fact, you might think I'm a pretty terrible mom for reading them to her. I'm usually so careful about the books she has access to, the shows she's allowed to watch on TV, the content of video games she plays. I just see no reason her her to be exposed to violence, gore, lying, cheating, mature themes. But these four books contained all of that and more.
The hero of our stories was betrayed by someone that he loved. He was arrested by evil men. He was beaten mercilessly, until he was practically unrecognizable. He was mocked, spit on, laughed at, humiliated. He was made to carry his own instrument of torture, then endured having nails driven through his wrists, through his feet. Long thorns were shoved into his head. He was stabbed and given vinegar to drink. He shouted out in agony and despair...and then he died.
Yes, Rachael and I read the crucifixion story this week, four times - in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. She was made privy to details about Easter that she, still being young and innocent, had never been told before. Sure, she knew the Easter story already - that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, that He was buried and when the women came on the third morning, the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty, and that He lives today. She knew. But she didn't know the whole story...how Judas betrayed him, how Peter denied him. How badly he was beaten. That the cross isn't just a symbol - a steeple on a church, the charm on Mommy's necklace - that it was the most horrible way that a criminal could be put to death in Jesus' time. The cross was feared.
She had never considered that He might have been afraid until we read about his prayers in the garden at Gethsemane. She didn't understand that He died a slow, agonizing death. She had heard the story, over and over and over, but had never applied the events to a living, breathing human.
And it broke her little heart. She cried with me as we read the account, all four times. I felt like the meanest, most horrible mother in the world for exposing her to that - for telling her such horrible things about someone she loves!
There were no happy endings read this week. Jesus died, his body was laid in a tomb and left there. Everyone was devastated. Jesus was dead.
Rachael also knows the end of the story. Although we didn't read that far this week, she knows how it all ends. She knows that we celebrate Easter because of an empty tomb, not because of bunnies and chicks and eggs. Now she understands the miracle more fully. She knows the full price that Jesus paid for each of us, what he endured that we might be saved. Whereas before she may have thought that he just drifted away, now she knows that it was a conscious choice to suffer severe consequences for sin so we don't have to.
She is beginning to understand just how much He loves her. Sure, she knew that too. She's been singing "Jesus loves me, this I know" since she was in diapers. But HOW MUCH He loves her was still beyond her understanding. It's still beyond MY understanding! It's so hard to fathom that, in the midst of His agony, He resisted the temptation to call on a multitude of angels to set Him free. He loved me enough that He chose the cross. He loved Rachael enough. He loved YOU enough.
It is my hope that Rachael's joy on Easter morning will be so much MORE for knowing the full story. The happy ending she's been waiting to hear all week is coming in the morning, and I want her little heart to bubble over with JOY. He suffered, he died and was buried, but death could not keep him - our Savior is ALIVE!
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On a related note, this song has been stuck in my head for weeks, and it's so perfect for Easter that I had to share it here.
Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me; buried, He carried my sins far away;
Rising, He justified - freely, forever; one day He's coming, oh glorious day!