Sometimes, God just says, “Write.” This is one of those times.
If someone died for you — no. Worse. If someone took their little child, allowed him to be tortured and killed for you, and then asked you to clean a toilet, would you do it?
I know. That’s pretty in your face. It’s pretty gruesome and extremely uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, I’m actually thinking I won’t even let this post go live.
But it is the uncomfortable truth of what God did for you and for me.
Not so much the toilet part. I’ll get to that in a minute.
It makes God seem horrible, doesn’t it? That He would make His son suffer in that way — that anyone would suffer in that way. I mean, He’s God, right? Why can’t He just wave His Harry Potter wand and make it all go away? Why all the blood and gore?
To be honest, I don’t know where God is taking this. This blog post is a perfect example of how I discover through my own writing. Because I’m so not in the mood to go into the whole scholarly theological discussion around this — although if that’s what you want, please go grab a bottle of wine, and let’s set a date to discuss. I’m happy to share my (extremely) limited knowledge on the topic, and point you to people who know more. But I don’t think the scholarly thing is where this blog post is going. No. It’s going somewhere else. Somewhere just as uncomfortable.
It’s amazing how uncomfortable tremendous love can be.
We spend so much time in this world pretending to be the thing we think we need to be in order to receive love. Some of us hide behind over-achieving and others are masters of mess-ups. Some of us dress a certain or way, or wear a blustery, overly-loud attitude while others shroud themselves in timidity and servitude, just to seek the approval and love of…someone. Some of us hide behind money or our lack of it. We think a spouse will make us complete or children who will love us or the rescue we picked up at the pound will somehow give us that complete, intimate, total love and acceptance we desire, even if we don’t know we desire it.
Recently I had the uncomfortable experience of loving someone through a breakdown. I mean this quite literally. Totally inept, I stood there and watched mental and emotional issues manifest quite physically. I held an arm while a shaking hand signed commitment papers. I stood next to this friend in an emergency room filled with puke and phlegm and blood while my friend, exhausted, lay on my shoulder in an attempt to find peace and quiet and rest. My friend said it was the calmest they’d felt in weeks.
We’ll call my friend Sam, because that can be a girl or a boy’s name. When I visited my friend the next day, Sam’s mom was already there. Sam seemed better — not great (after all, Sam was forced to wear what looked like Garanamal pajamas and fuzzy socks, and Sam was NOT happy about this) but definitely better. But when Sam’s mom left, a mask fell from that tired face, and Sam looked at me and said, “I’m exhausted.” Was that all an act for your mother? I asked. Yes. It was an act for her, Sam said.
So for love, we all pretend. We all wear masks. Sometimes we are protecting the ones we love and sometimes we are working so hard to keep love. Because to reveal the very core of who we are, even if we are the blustery attitude type, we might discover how very unlovable we are. This is why we all run so fast away from any time to just sit and be with ourselves.
There seem to be two basic approaches to God. Those of us who run fast and furiously away so we don’t have to go through an accounting of what we’ve done with God. This often reveals itself as a bitterness against God, an anger, a big middle finger at the small child sacrifice. Primarily because we are so angry that we needed a small child sacrifice.
And then there are those who say, “I’m not cleaning any toilet.” These are the ones who create their own religions and think they have a new thing. They shop a little from Buddha and a little from Taoism and a little Santa Claus Christianity, throw a dash of Kabbahla in there and call it a Personal Spirituality. They speak for God when they say, “God doesn’t care if I believe in Jesus,” or “All that matters to God is that I’m a ‘good’ person.” This, too, comes from a place of hiding. Because that much love — the love that requires a child sacrifice (something so abhorrent, right?) — is uncomfortable. To say the least.
That place in our middles where the core of who we are resides — that place is vulnerable, and we do everything we can to protect it. To keep it safe. But for all our clasping it in our tight, safe grip, all we get is a big, black hole. We cover it so completely no light gets in. Including the light of a babe in a manger, who grows up to be a man who dies for me. And you.
In the emergency room, after Sam’s mother got there, Sam ate. A crumb rested on a lip. And though Sam is thirty-two years old, a mother’s hand still reached out to wipe that crumb away. That’s how parents are about their kids. They are always our kids. Whether they’re trembling in emergency rooms or hanging on a cross, we look at them and they are always our children. God’s children.
And no matter how much we try to hide from our parents, they love us still. And God — He chases us down us down with His love, this aggressive forgiveness that encompasses every single part of what we think is unworthy. He runs after us. He will never forcibly pry our fingers away from that tiny little globe of a soul we hold inside. But He jealously desires communion with it and will do everything in our power to choose to let Him in. He’ll send us dreams. He’ll speak to us through music. He whisper to our spirits and He will lead us to scriptures. And once we decide to participate in the conversation, that little globe begins to glow.
We might think our globe is sticky with grime, but God thinks it’s the most beautiful thing He’s ever seen. And the more we let Him love it, the shinier it becomes. And soon, an understanding infuses our being, and I’m not too proud to clean a toilet to say thank you.
But here’s the really strange part: once I become willing to clean the toilet, God doesn’t ask me to clean the toilet. He gives me a cushy job in the palace. He gives me a blessing like no other blessing. He asks me to partner with Him in the work of shining other people’s globes. It’s amazing. It’s a blessing. And how in the world do you say no to that?
You say YES.