My kids got a lot of candy on Easter this year, so much candy that I had to make a rule about how much they could eat each day. My youngest responded to the new rule in typical two-year-old fashion: a fist-pounding screaming tantrum on the floor.
I calmly responded that if he stopped his fit, there would be a chance for more candy tomorrow but if he persisted, I would just throw it all away. The tears dried up instantly.
Image courtesy of Lindsey Smallwood
Later, apropos of nothing, he told my husband (who hadn’t seen the incident) “Dad, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is no. But the good news is tomorrow.” My husband looked at me, confused, and I explained about the candy.
But then my toddler just kept saying it:
The bad news is no.
The good news is tomorrow.
In the last couple weeks, he’s repeated these words to friends who came for dinner. The teacher in his Bible class. A clerk at the store.
All over town, Oliver keeps making this announcement. I’ve stopped explaining about the candy and I’ve just let the words speak for themselves. The more I’ve heard them, the truer they seem.
I have good news and bad news.
Isn’t this the way life feels? I find myself constantly navigating joy and sadness, hope and doubt. Reading through my news feed last week, I was overwhelmed again with sadness at the passing of Rachel Held Evans, a writer whose work and witness have shaped my faith. She died recently of complications from the flu, despite being otherwise healthy, leaving behind a husband and two young children. It seems so senseless and tragic.
But also on my news feed was a video of Prince Harry, who had become a dad for the first time. The joy on his face as he shared his news and exclaimed “…how any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension!” was so tender and sweet.
Good news and bad news is always happening all at once. I was so thankful for the Easter service at The River, where we got to hear testimonies from Brad Dell and Eddy Shahin. Brad reminded us that the resurrection power of God means that bodies can be healed. And Eddy helped us confront the fact that sometimes they’re not.
There has to be room for both stories. As we continue to live in this Easter season, I want to be a person who makes space for grief and still walks in joy.
The bad news is no.
Recently I heard Pastor Adriel Tirado share his story with the people from The River and Shalom Iglesia. After facing intense persecution from his own government in Venezuela, including attempts on his life and that of his family, he and his wife and two daughters came to the U.S., seeking asylum. Instead of help and protection, they were separated from each other and put into jails and detention centers. Adriel’s wife was reunited with her daughters after a couple of weeks because of some advocacy work by the Evangelical Covenant Church in southern California, but Pastor Adriel was stuck in a for-profit prison in Georgia. It took nearly a year for them to be reunited and the things he endured in prison at the hands of our government are harrowing to hear. This family is still suffering, both because of how traumatic the last two years have been and because they are unable to work to support themselves due to U.S. immigration policy.
Listening to Pastor Adriel’s story, I was so overwhelmed by all the ‘no’ he has faced. His government in Venezuela said ‘no’ to acting justly in the first place. Then a ‘no’ to asylum at the border, and a ‘no’ to staying with his family, even a ‘no’ to humane treatment during his incarceration.
I don’t understand the ‘noes’ that Pastor Adriel has lived these last couple of years any more than I understand why my dear friend lost another baby to miscarriage last week or why another friend’s marriage is ending. I join the Psalmist in lamenting and wondering and begging for anything but a ‘no’.
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1-2 NIV)
The good news is tomorrow.
But in a world full of ‘no’, Easter is the promise of an eternal ‘yes‘. Injustice is not the end of the story. Divorce is not the end of the story. Loss is not the end of the story. Even death is not the end of the story. Easter promises that resurrection is not only possible, it’s how the story ends.
The Christian hope is that in a good news/bad news world, Jesus comes with better news than we could dream up on our own: a world healed and whole is on the way. And somehow, that world begins now, breaking in through ordinary miracles, like Harry’s new baby, and extraordinary ones, like Brad’s now-functioning kidneys. That world breaks through in Adriel’s story when he calls us to be people who work for justice and peace.
And maybe that world breaks through in a toddler’s insistent declaration that the good news is tomorrow. He’s right. All will be well. He doesn’t know it yet, but that’s way better news than leftover Easter candy.
Lindsey Smallwood loves to communicate truth through stories, whether by blogging, making up tales at bedtime, or preaching and teaching to churches and groups. She is married to Chris, a SJSU Physics professor, and they have three young sons.