Friday, April 6, 2012

"They Know Not What They Do"

There have been many times that I've shed a tear (or twenty) because of my children. As parents, we all walk very different journeys, but there is one moment that nearly every mother with a child over the age of five can probably relate to-- the first time your child tells you they don't love you anymore.

It seemed "cute" when my beloved soul sister, Frances, called me up in tears one day, because her four-year-old son had just uttered those very words to her. Oh, how brilliant I was as a preschool teacher and child of a compliant toddler who couldn't say such choice phrases (yet)! I knew (because I'd read about it in my "early childhood development" text books) that such phases were simply a normal part of power struggles between parents and children, and reassured her accordingly. Once I was off the phone, I thought smugly to myself how silly she was for allowing a child to manipulate her emotions like that. By God's grace, when my turn came two years later, Frances was a better friend to me than I had been to her.

There is something about this precious little being (into whom you have poured every ounce of your time, love, efforts, energy, finances, etc) being able to reject you that hurts like nothing else. I thought of all the precious memories we'd shared, and was engulfed by a wave of deep sadness (hence the crying). "How could my precious baby boy not love me?" I sobbed in Frances' ear.

The next wave of emotion, however, was brought on by the less-than-precious memories. There had been the forty-two weeks of pregnancy, the long labor, the nursing "break in" period (which was two months long and nearly broke me), the colic, the shredded wallpaper border (during "nap time"), the calls to poison control (apparently, eating a daddy long legs isn't toxic-- it's just extra protein) and the time when he sought revenge for being put in time-out by peeing in the toy box ... as I blew my nose in our little bathroom, my next comment came from a very different destination on my emotional map: "I loved him through all of that and now-- because he can't go to McDonald's, he doesn't LOVE ME ANYMORE?! How dare that ungrateful little snot!"

As I vented my frustration for my dear friend, four little knuckles rapped on the bathroom door, asking for help with a toy. I was slightly alarmed by my first inclination-- which was to coldly answer, "What do you want my help for? You don't even love me anymore, remember?" With Frances imparting wisdom via cordless phone that I'd shared just a few years earlier (only hers came from a place of experience, love and sympathy, not the textbook of a smarty-pants "expert" ), I opened the door and, remembering how much I loved that little stinker, quit hiding in the bathroom and decided not to resign as Alan's mommy.

Love had nothing to do with how much he brought to our relationship in the beginning, and time hadn't changed that. Alan wasn't actually trying to heap pain upon his mother, he simply wanted to manipulate the situation and impose his will upon me. He needed my love, forgiveness and guidance at a time when he wasn't acting the least bit deserving, because he is my child. It took some filtering through the words of a good friend, but I got my ego out of the way and remembered my purpose. Fortunately for us all, Jesus didn't have the hang-ups I do when preparing to lay down his life for all of mankind ...

People flocked to Jesus throughout His ministry. He was loved by many, and sought by all. Even those who doubted came to see him, in hopes that they might become convinced. The Phrases and Sadducees didn't like how He was shaking things up, but they didn't want to debate with Him, either. There were high hopes that the Messiah would come in on a white horse and save all of Israel from Roman tyranny. There had been mighty miracles and life-altering teachings. This Jesus could be just the ticket to a better life ... or so many people assumed.

But Jesus did not come to establish an earthly kingdom or to change the world with His teachings, He came to conquer sin and death by laying his life down. In their foolishness, the people in Jesus' time, from his beloved disciples to the "learned" religious leaders, chose to reject Jesus, because He wasn't bending to their will. The betrayal Jesus endured went light years past "I don't love you anymore," landing smack in the middle of, "Crucify Him."

To this day, the world doesn't know what to do with Jesus. I would love to say that only those who don't know and love Jesus struggle with this, but that's simply not true. Jesus' redemption is as necessary for me as it was for the very people putting him to death over two thousand years ago.

Those of us who pledge to live for him "even unto death" can truly relate to Peter when we look closely at our lives. We claim we would to anything for the cause of Christ on Sunday, but we clam up in a heartbeat when we leave the comfort of our churches.

When I look at how I want the world to be run (justice for the world, grace for me), how I want to read The Word (devouring parts that seem to only point to others and skipping conveniently over passages that challenge or convict me), I see the box I would conveniently like to put my LORD in. While my mouth spouts the joys of the Christian life, my heart is dressed in a Pharisee's robe.

When I struggle with losing all that I hold dear to stand up for what is right, I feel the need to arbitrarily wash my hands of making any stance, as Pilot did.

Billions of people live here, all with their own issues, hang-ups and failures in the presence of a perfect, Holy God. And yet, for all of us, Jesus willingly laid down his life. He knew that some would say, "I don't love you anymore," when times got rough and some would reject him entirely. He saw hateful, angry faces that spat in his, and yet, without a single reservation, He moved beyond the pain (both physical and emotional) and died for us, that we might live. No one had to "talk him down" from taking out the entire city or simply deciding we weren't worth it and returning to Heaven. No, He faced all of the pain head-on, that we might be reconciled with God.

Jesus, you know how I fight for what I want, what I think I need and what I feel I deserve. Thank you for giving up all that you deserved, that I might have the eternal reward I could never obtain on my own. Thank you for saving me and continuing to forgive me as I question your goodness, doubt your love and attempt to force my own plans upon you. Thank you for taking the worst the world could throw at you, that I might have a "Good Friday." O my Jesus, thank you simply isn't enough ...

Awaiting Alleluia,