A familiar story
When my daughter was a preschooler, she loved the book Wacky Wednesday. We’d read it every day, multiple times a day. Even now, seven years later, I can recite it to you. “It all began with that shoe on the wall. . .” My daughter knew every word yet still chose it again and again. Even after she had already discovered all the wacky things in the book, the shoe on the wall, the bug holding up a refrigerator, the crocodile in the stroller – still she wanted to read it.
My daughter was like most children – she loved, and still loves, to read and watch things repeatedly. It’s part of their development, and despite the weariness of parents to read the same books or listen, again, to “We don’t talk about Bruno,” this repetition is good for our kids.
Experts say that good things happen when kids hear the same story over and over again. They might not fully understand it the first time, and so repeated hearing allows them to take in new information, to discover something, to notice a detail they missed. A familiar story also brings comfort because of its predictability. The world feels safer when they know the end, when they aren’t surprised, and they know what is going to happen. Repeated reading also allows for kids to participate. Long before my daughter could put letters together into words, she could “read” Wacky Wednesday to me.
This Holy Week, Christians will gather together to tell, again, a familiar story. We’ll tell about the Last Supper and Christ’s mandate to love. We’ll hear again of Jesus’ betrayal, trial, torture, and death on the cross. And on Easter, we’ll rejoice in the resurrection and Christ’s defeat of the power of death.
It’s a story that we tell over and over again. We know the ending and we might even be able to recite parts of it from memory. But we come back to this same story for some of the same reasons my daughter picked up the battered yellow copy of Wacky Wednesday each week.
Every year we have the chance to learn something new, understand the mystery in a different way. In hearing the story, again, we come to notice a new insight or grace. There’s something comforting in entering into a story where we know the ending. We can open ourselves to the cross in all its terror and grief because we know the resurrection happens.
And we can participate – these days of worship are opportunities for each of us to be a part of the prayers and singing, the sorrow and joys of Jesus’ death and resurrection. In them, we grow deeper in connection with God, with ourselves, and with others.
Maybe this is yet another reason why my daughter climbed into my lap to read Wacky Wednesday – we read it together. This Holy Week, as we tell the story again, and we are embraced again by God and drawn into God’s incredible love for us and this world, a love we see most fully in the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.