On the Thursday night before Easter, I arrived home after nine o’clock from dress rehearsal at the church for our Good Friday production. Since there was no way to adequately wash the costume-blood from my body at the church, I came home with it, careful not to stop or be stopped to avoid having to explain the fake injuries.
Once I arrived home, though, I was unable, as I entered our crowded kitchen to microwave some sort of dinner, to hide the red streaks on my neck and arms from my children. The smallest of the crew, Ethan and Meghan, were especially curious, and a bit worried for my health, scrunching up their noses and squinting their eyes as they tried to get a better view of my wounds.
I assured them that it was all just pretend and it was not real blood and “Daddy is not hurt; these are not really owies.”
Ethan was not so easily put off, though. He followed me around the house, and at every opportunity, he made a point of turning away in disgust and saying in his 4-year-old, slurry speech, “Daddy, dat’s gwoss.”
He caught me once again as I headed for the bathroom and a hot shower, where I would do my best to wash away my sins, not to mention the weariness and emotional drain of pretending to be Jesus. “Daddy, why do have dat on you? Dat’s gwoss.”
“It’s just pretend, son. Don’t worry. I’m going to take a shower and wash it all off now,” I replied, trying to reassure both of us. He didn’t leave, though. He just stood there with his tiny brain all in an uproar trying to comprehend why I would pretend to bleed. I couldn’t leave it alone, for his sake. Poor kid.
“Daddy’s going to be Jesus on the cross for the play, a show, at the church tomorrow night. Do you know about the story of Jesus dying on the cross? Do you remember that story?”
Ethan’s eyes grew and his face contorted for a second before his head started nodding. “Yep, dere’s a pitcher of dat story in my bible.”
He ran to find the children’s one-year bible with the cover torn-off and the pages falling out. I put him off, saying I would read the story to him after my shower, but before I got out of the bathroom, I could hear Renee’s voice reading the familiar words in the living room.
After I emerged, miraculously healed and washed clean, Ethan showed me the pictures. There it was, right there in color and black and white: those familiar words and that amazing image.
“Why are dey mad at him, Daddy?”
“I don’t know, son. It’s hard to explain.”
We had a good conversation that night – me and Ethan.
I had been wondering all week, as we rehearsed and fought through the dozens of last-minute technical, costume, and prop problems for our little production which seemed to be more a mockery of the crucifixion at times than a representation of it, whether it was all just vanity. Did it have any real value?
After the two live performances were complete, and the production had been pulled together by the herculean efforts of some talented folks, the value became quite clear.
But the night before the clearing, before we had emerged from the fog, Ethan’s inquisitive thoughts and appreciative smile became the tangible value of the cross to me.
Others were likely affected in ways I’ll never know and words can’t express, but what I do know is that, for the next four days, my youngest son wanted to read nothing else but the story of Jesus.
There’s just something about that blood.