We just had communion Sunday at our church, and after church were on a family drive when Torre piped up in the back, “Daddy, you know that Jesus died for us?”
Matt told him yes, he knew that, and I turned around to ask Torre if he knew why Jesus died for us. Torre nodded solemnly. “Because we eat the bread.”
It was a classic adorable kid moment, and I’ve been turning it over in my mind. I’m not in a panic because Torre doesn’t understand what death means yet, so he won’t comprehend the miracle of the resurrection, and he doesn’t need to grasp the burden of sin before he is able to also grasp its solution. But it reminded me how much I don’t want my kid to get messed up spiritually by growing up in church (nobody wants that, right?). I realize it’s an ongoing process and not something I can just teach once or put some safeguards and pat myself on the back, but parenting is one of the most challenging forms of discipleship I’ve experienced, and it forces me to evaluate my own perspective all the time. How can I teach my three year old truth that can grow up with him, not baby him or stifle him?
We were given a Jesus Storybook Bible when Torre was baptised, and we have just recently started reading it together. This Bible frames all its different stories in terms of God’s great rescue and points toward Jesus, and it incorporates a lot of interpretation to make sense of the stories themselves. In the story of the Fall, this Bible says that Adam andEve’s disobedience caused a terrible lie to come into the world that whispered in the hearts of everyone “God doesn’t love me.”
This is such a sturdier building block for me to talk about sin and forgiveness from than “disobeying God means we are bad, and Jesus had to die to make us good.” So in the car Sunday afternoon I said to Torre,
“Remember when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and that terrible lie came into the world that God doesn’t love us? Jesus died for us so that we will always know God loves us. Even when we do the wrong thing, God still loves us, and he wants to help us do the right thing. In church we eat that bread to help us remember about Jesus.”
It’s scary teaching kids about God! I don’t want to say anything Satan could ever use as a foothold to accuse or shame my son or any other little ones who I get to teach. I hope that these moments will be instructive for me as well – that as I think through the implications of my explanations I find shards of untruth to pick out like splinters from my own soul.
I’ve been reflecting on this portrayal of sin as the lie God doesn’t love us, and I see how much of the pain we see and feel and cause is rooted in a worldview where God doesn’t see or care for us. It is much easier to be loving and generous and forgiving and hopeful when our identity is drenched in God’s acceptance and love. It is easier to show grace when we view other’s sin as growing out of that lie that God doesn’t love them.
Of course sin is not just a lie we believe; it is an action or attitude with repercussions that ripple outward and corrupt and infect and destroy. The wages of sin are death, and Jesus’s death was not just a declaration of love for us, but also a ransom payment, the purchase of redemption so that we can live for him instead of dying.
I know I will not teach Torre perfectly about God – how could I? I can only teach him what I know, and that is far from perfect. But I do hope that through the words I say (about God and about others) and in the way I live that God will be gracious enough to plant a seed that can take deep roots in Torre’s heart, from which the rest of his faith can grow, and that seed will be “I am always, deeply, loved by God.”
In Christian culture, it is so often glorified to live “sold-out for God” – trusting him for everything and not being ensnared by worldly things. John the Baptist and almost all the other Biblical prophets are good examples. Modern examples abound as well, and they can inspire and challenge us. But I wonder if focusing only on the most dramatic examples of faithfulness sets us up to feel like failures if we end up having an ordinary life.
What about those of us who don’t get a radical prophetic call? Can we be sold out for Jesus and still take a mortgage? Can we make friends without evangelising them or indulge our kids in ice cream truck treats without guilt over the panhandlers we passed by? I think the answer is sometimes yes. Does that sound like a middle class cop out? Maybe it is – I’m trying to figure out where to draw the line!
I don’t believe God gave us life simply for us to suffer (not that a life of sacrifice is necessarily a life of suffering). His promise is for abundant life to all who believe in him, and abundant life can take many different forms I think. At the centre of all those different forms is obedience to Christ and I think that’s where it gets tricky.
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Recently Matt preached about the woman with the issue of blood, and as part of that service, I wrote a monologue to read before the sermon began. Here it is!
I have been invisible for 12 years.
I felt myself wasting away from the inside out, felt strength withering from my bones in the heat each day.
I hate crowds, hate the crush of flesh and smells and sounds, like an ocean current cutting through the city, carrying a life that I’ll never know. People going to work, to weddings, running errands and meeting friends. That day the crowd was waiting for Jesus, hoping to see a show, and I watched from a doorway, kept my distance as usual.
It can be glamorous to be sick, if you know the right people, if you get the right disease, if you get better. I failed on all counts.
People cared at the beginning, brought meals, said prayers. But when the prayers go unanswered, you run out of things to talk about. “How are you?” Starts every conversation. And ends it because my eyes can’t lie – I am dying, drop by drop in slow motion shame. My skin aches for a kind touch, but my disease is polluting – like I’m spiritually contagious, waiting for forgiveness not for sin that I’ve committed but for the person I am.
My family is gone, and my friends gave up on me a long time ago – they moved on with their lives while mine has been stuck on pause. Until that day when Jesus came and Jairus asked him to heal his daughter. I know snake oil healers, catch the gleam in their eye when they promise what a difference silver coins will make, and when mine were all spent they melted back into the crowd.
Jesus was different.
When he went with Jairus, the crowd almost swallowed him up, so eager to see a miracle they would have crushed him on the way. But while the crowd pulsed, Jesus didn’t hurry – his measured steps were so sure, that I suddenly realized he was my only hope. He was actually going to heal a sick girl, not just put on a show and collect a paycheck. I pulled my veil over my face and pressed through the crowd. The flesh and the smells and the sounds swelled around me, and I gasped like drowning, but this was no time to die, not when life itself was passing within my reach.
I lurched through the crowd, shoving past bodies much bigger and stronger than my frame, eyes locked on Jesus’ back, giving no notice to the gasps and murmurs of those who realized my condition. If anyone could heal me it was this gentle, yet determined man who was on his way to a noble cause and wouldn’t even notice, if I could only touch the hem of his garment.
When I reached him and touched his cloak, it felt like reaching cool shade after walking through parched fields in hot sun. It felt like cool, clean water from a well after 12 years of drinking from puddles and streams. It was so good to be whole, that at first I didn’t realize the crowd had stopped. That the ocean current driving to Jairus’ house had stopped, and that people were staring. At me.
Jesus had noticed, of course he had, and while I stood stunned, feeling my heart beat and the wind on my face while everything else was on pause for a change, he saw me. I was no longer invisible.
When I found my voice, I fell at his feet and told him my story – I have been bleeding for 12 years, and nobody has been able to help me, but when I saw you I knew – I just knew – that you could make me well. And when I touched your cloak I was healed, and I will never ask for anything again in my life. He smiled at me and said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
And it was so.