Easter was different for me this year, as it was the first time I sat in the pews for Easter worship since high school, so the morning was already going to be tough.
For some reason my wife and I decided that we could get our kids up and dressed for the early service at my parents’ church, so that we could make it to a baptism party for a friend’s baby, then to a family brunch, then a three hour drive home.
Perfect plan, nothing could go wrong.
As it turns out, I didn’t have time to wallow in the self-pity I otherwise would have on Easter morning, because two of my three children got up on the wrong end of the bed. They threw tantrums over wearing the clothes we had shown them and gotten them to agree to several times so this wouldn’t happen that morning.
After wrestling my three year old son into his carseat, his screams about wanting to wear jammies to church ringing in my ears, and having resisted the urge to threaten or otherwise say something sarcastic to my ten year old daughter who was outraged at having to wear a skirt, we hit the road.
We hoped we’d have enough time to navigate Nashville traffic, find parking somewhere in Hillsboro Village (a true Easter miracle), and find seats in time so we wouldn’t be “those people” walking into church late.
The tension in our minivan was high. Easter was not getting off to a great start.
As we got off the interstate, the fog from an unusually cold spring night lifted, revealing a man standing by the exit with a cardboard sign. He’s there a lot. He’s been on the streets for years, and he would be more than happy to switch places with my still-griping children.
I resisted the urge to give the kids the “people are starving in China” retort and pulled out my wallet, only to remember that I never carry cash. I felt the apostle James getting ready to tell me how dead my faith is if I only gave this guy a weak smile.
The fast food joint by the exit was closed, but the gas station was open, so I figured I could jump out to buy him something, hang an illegal U turn to give it to him, and maybe make it to worship on time. Wondering aloud if we really had time to do this, my wife and I exchanged a look knowing we didn’t have time not to do it.
After putting coffee and a breakfast sandwich in his hand, pulling off another illegal U turn and heading back toward our destination, the car was eerily quiet. The kids were still grumpy, but we could tell they were aware that something was going on.
“OK, Dad, it’s time to say the perfect thing and bring it home like Mike Brady or Ward Clever, not like Clark Griswold,” I said to myself.
Normally I have this terrible habit of thinking of the perfect thing to say about an hour after something happens, then kicking myself since the moment has passed. But somehow (thanks, Holy Spirit!), this was not one of those times.
“Guys, coordinated outfits and pictures with everyone smiling are what parents and grandparents care about, but that (gesturing to our friend at the exit), is what Jesus cares about.”
We got to the church, parked, and found seats before worship started. We even managed a cute family photo after with everyone smiling.
I still felt weird sitting in the pews and wearing a suit instead of a robe. My kids still cared more about eating candy than anything else that day. But after a not so great start, maybe we were able to somewhat redeem an otherwise crummy Easter morning in the eyes of my children.