For my birthday on Tuesday, I asked my Facebook readers to share what surprises them about God. It was inspiring to read about the wonder God still stirs in their hearts. Many mentioned grace, His love despite our sins and mistakes, and His care no matter what. So, in keeping with that theme, I thought I would share a story of how Bethany once helped me to recapture the "wow," recapture the surprise of what Christ did for us on the cross. I hope you'll read and have your breath taken away again by the wonder of it all!
Here ya go:
It started just like any other night. Bethany grabbed her sea otter toy, snuggled deep into her blankets, and look up at me with smiling brown eyes. I settled next to her and picked up the first of the bedtime stories I would read that night. A dancing hippo shone from the book’s cover. “I like that one,” Bethany mumbled through the two fingers she had stuck in her mouth.
So, I read, she wiggled, and the short pile of books soon dwindled to nothing. Then, came our favorite part of the bedtime ritual. I reached for the Bible story book on her dresser, thinking I’d read about Zaccheus or perhaps blind Bartimaeus or the woman at the well.
But just as my fingers touched the brightly colored surface of the book, Bethany sat up and tapped my arm. “You tell me about Jesus tonight. Tell me about Jesus on the cross.”
“Ahhhh,” I murmured as I turned from the dresser and tucked the blankets around Bethany’s chin. “Jesus on the cross.”
I smiled down at her. Then, I reached over, dimmed the light, and began. I told her about how the soldiers hit Jesus, and hurt him, and spat on him, and pushed an awful crown of thorns on his head. I told her about how they made him carry his own cross up to the hill called Golgotha, and how they laid him on the cross and spread out his arms, and nailed him there.
“Did it hurt very much?” she asked, just as she always did whenever I got to this place in the story.
I brushed the hair back from her forehead with my fingertips. “Very much.”
“They not supposed to do that.” She frowned.
“But they did.”
“And then what happened?”
My voice grew quiet. “They lifted the cross high in the air, and the sky turned black.”
“Oooo,” she breathed.
“Then, Jesus died, and the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
“That’s sad, Mommy.” She clutched her sea otter toy even tighter.
I nodded, then told her about how they took Jesus down from the cross and put him in the tomb for one day . . . two days . . . three days.
She waved her fingers in the air and counted the days with me.
“Then –“ I paused.
Bethany caught her breath.
“The ground shook.” I rattled her headboard. “The stone rolled away, and—” I stopped.
As always, Bethany finished the story in her loudest voice. “Him not die anymore! Him risen!”
We laughed together as I hugged her and whispered in her ear, “And that is the most wonderful, incredible, amazing, important thing that has ever happened in the whole wide world from the beginning of time until now.”
Her eyes grew wide. She snuggled deeper into her blankets, and said the one word that I’ll never forget. “Wow.”
Wow. And somehow that simple word stuck in my heart and I saw the story of Jesus through her eyes. I saw the wonder, the mystery, the beauty. I saw how much it cost for God to make me His own.
And in that moment, God rekindled in me the wow of the gospel. Suddenly, it was new, amazing, and wonderful. How had I forgotten the awe? How had it become “old news?”
I laid back on the bed next to her and looked at the ceiling. “Wow,” I whispered. “Wow, wow, wow.”
Bethany sighed and rubbed her small hand over my arm. “You tell me again, Mommy? Tell me about Jesus on the cross.”
“Of course, sweetheart. I’ll tell you as often as you want to hear it.”
And I do, with a silent prayer that neither of us will ever forget the “wow” of what Jesus did for us on the cross.