This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, a day I've never really grasped the depth of before. The kiddos were all participating in service, performing the traditional palm branch parade and then singing a song about the little donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem for His "Triumphant Arrival". My oldest has a lot of anxiety about things like this. He wants so very badly to participate but he gets easily nervous, embarrassed, self-conscious. And it hurts my heart to watch his internal battles over things many other kids, including my youngest, seem to handle with little or no problem.
So, there we were, right before they were to begin their little part and I knew "the shutdown" was about to happen. He gets nervous and then he closes himself off. He clings, he crosses his little arms tight over his chest, he gets angry and hangs his head and refuses to talk. I knew it was coming, that pain, that struggle. He WANTED to walk with his friends, he WANTED to wave those palms and celebrate Jesus, he WANTED to stand up there and smile and sing like the other kids. But his little emotions and insecurities warred inside him. And it hurt so bad to know that the only way for this to change is for him to just do it, no matter how scared he was. And that was about the time things started happening in my own head and heart.
Well, he got brave enough to stand in line with the others, arms tightly folded, head down, of course. He took his palm branch but he certainly didn't wave it. He took his spot in the choir of little voices. He looked up at me and I reminded him with hand motions to take a deep breath, put his hands to his sides. We had talked about that if he didn't want to sing he didn't have to, but that if he chose to go up with the other kids he couldn't cross his arms, hang his head and turn his back to the congregation. He at least had to make the choice to put his arms to his side, look up and be there, to face his fears. And HE DID IT! He didn't look happy, but he did it, he didn't sing but he was up there! And it was a big step to help right this part of his little world. As his Mama it was agonizing watching him stand there, scared and self-conscious but choosing to start taking steps to overcome it. And as he rushed back to me afterwards, to his home base, it was such a relief to both of us.
So, what did I finally grasp about Palm Sunday? That Jesus knew what was ahead of Him that week! He knew it was going to hurt. He knew it was going to be scary. He knew He would be betrayed by one disciple, abandoned and denied by others. He knew even when He sent the two disciples to find the young donkey, when He climbed on its back and road for town, He KNEW and He still chose it. As He watched those people waving palm branches and shouting "Hosanna", just as we did Sunday, He KNEW that some of those same people less than one week later would stand in a crowd and shout "crucify" instead. He knew of the beatings that were coming, the people who would spit in His face, He knew of the insults and lashings, both by words and much worse, that were coming His way. And yet He chose to go!!! And standing there watching my little boy so scared and yet so brave, my heart hurt for God! As a mother I often identify much more with Mary's pain, but standing there I thought "Oh, how God must have hurt, to watch His Son walk into that, knowing what was to come". But it was the only way and Jesus knew it. It was His purpose, His reason for being on this Earth, God made man. As He rode that little gray donkey through that cheering crowd He already knew every face, every heart, He already knew whose cheers would turn to jeers in such a short time. He already knew!!! And He chose it anyways! FOR ME, to wash away MY sins. And as I stood there, with my eyes on my baby and my mind on my Savior my heart hurt so bad to know that He knew the only way for my heart and my eternity to change was for Him to just do it, no matter what He knew was to come. The depth of that...it's mind-boggling and life-changing!!! And I pray the wonderment I felt after that realization never fades. I will never look at Palm Sunday the same again.