Will you kiss it?

It was a church service focused around God's deep and unconditional love for us. There were beautiful songs of worship. There was a message was on John 15, "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love." There was a touching reading of Sarah Bessey's piece, "You're already so loved."

Then, there was a time of silence. It was in that space of quiet that Love came alive to me.

In the silence I heard a small voice in the back of the room plead, "Mommy, will you kiss it?" 

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It's difficult to know how to pray when it comes to our own lives.

It can be easier, in some ways, to pray for the illnesses of others or the brokenness of the world. We can see from the outside how things are not the way they are supposed to be. We can love others as we lift them up to God.

Loving ourselves through prayer is much more complicated. It's easy to worry about being selfish or narrow-minded. What do we ask for if God already knows what we need? Aren't we asked to be patient and dependent? Shouldn't we just pray "Your will be done" over and over again?

Maybe. If that's really how we feel. Often, though, prayers like that aren't from the honesty of our own heart, but from a perception of what God is like and what God expects us to be like. 

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Daddy, will you kiss it?

"Daddy, will you kiss it?" 

It is our uncertainty about God's answer to that question that holds us back in our prayers. In so many ways, it's what we really want to know.

God, will you pause what you are doing, come down to my level, look in my eyes, and acknowledge my pain? Will you honor my requests, whether lofty or silly, with gentleness and compassion? Will you hold me in your arms, and tell me it's going to be okay? Even if the actual healing will take time and work, will you give me strength by kissing my soul with your love?

Daddy, sometimes the tender places aren't where I have already tumbled, but where I fear I might fall if I try. My hopes and dreams are aching for reassurance. Will you kiss those too? Will you run beside my bike without training wheels, holding the seat until I am ready for you to let go? Will you cheer me on? If I fall, will you help me get back up? If I get lost, will you show me the way?

God, do you love me like a good Daddy and a good Mommy? 

_____

In the silence, I heard a child ask, "Will you kiss it?"

In my heart, I heard the voice of God whisper "Yes." 

In my soul, I felt a tender kiss.

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A Fresh Look at a Familiar Story

Familiarity often breeds assumptions.

Whenever we have heard a story more times than we can count, our memories of the story being told mix with the story itself, until we are no longer able to separate one from another.

This happens especially with well-known Bible stories.

After hearing about these narratives ad nauseam from children’s ministry through Sunday sermons, there comes a point when we stop reading them for ourselves. They are old hat. We know them.

Perhaps one of the most common is the story of the prodigal son. It is that most common illustration from Luke 15, about the boy who goes off in sin and squander, a father who is so happy at his return that he runs to greet him, and a son that is so judgmental and arrogant that he misses the party.

You know the one.

The one in which we all despise and look down upon the older brother for being so full of himself.

Yet, the text does not say he was judgmental. It says he was angry. I think there is a big difference.

Judgment comes from a place of pride. It is the feeling that comes when we think we know better than someone else about what should be done in particular situation.

Anger comes from a place of hurt. It is the emotion that rises when we feel we have been wronged in some way.

The only other time the Greek word for angry used here (orgizo) is used in the book of Luke, is in the parable of the dinner in Luke 14, when the landowner becomes angry that none of his guests accepted his invitation. He is feels hurt and overlooked; anger is his emotional response.

In all my years of being exposed to the parable of the prodigal son, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the older brother painted with the brushstrokes of compassion.

I wonder if we read the text ourselves, without the preconceived notion of his arrogance, would we hear we hear his words differently? Would we hear the pain and tremble in his voice as he says to his Father,

“Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” – Luke 15:29-30

I wonder, did the older brother avoid eye contact with his Father as he spoke these words, for fear that he could not hold back the tears if forced to look into His eyes?

If I put away my judgment, if I stop assuming I already know the heart of this cruel and shrewd brother, I am able to hear myself in his words.

We like to talk about how much we love God’s grace. That’s easy to say when we feel how deeply we ourselves have been the recipients.

But I have sometimes been  hurt by God’s brutal grace. That’s right, I called it brutal. Can we be honest and admit that’s how it feels sometimes? That it stings when we watch others receive what we always longed for, and we feel left behind?

When we see a friend receive, without asking, and maybe without even wanting it, the thing we have prayed to have for more years than we care to admit. When we watch seemingly undeserving people get thrust into the spotlight while our hard work seems to be unnoticed. Or when God seems to show up so visibly, so tangibly, for everyone except us.

Have you ever wanted to scream at God in hurt and anger, “When is it going to be my turn? I have followed you faithfully. I have sought You. I have read Your Word. I have tried to obey. I have asked forgiveness when I failed. I have let your Spirit lead me the best I could. So why is my life here, and that other person’s life is there? When is it going to be my turn?!?”

Grace is not fair. The younger brother did not deserve a party. The older brother did. That is what fairness would have looked like.

I can understand why the older brother would be hurt to the point of anger.

Somehow, his relationship with his Father had to break open to a place it had not yet been. He needed to trust his Father not on the basis of His equality, but on the basis of His love.

That is a harder place to get to than we sometimes admit.

Until we are ready, God remains sitting next to us on the step of that porch, patiently waiting for us to hear His words of grace for us.

“you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” –Luke 15:31

learning to let go of my emotional suitcase

I sat on the plaid couch next to my fiancé. Across from us sat our pastor and his wife. It was pre-marital counseling, almost twelve years ago. It was the moment I received some of the best advice ever given to me. It was the middle of the session spent talking about our childhoods. I had just finished telling stories of my past. Stories filled with facts, but empty of feeling.

After I finished, the pastor’s wife locked eyes with me. I saw wisdom, strength, and grace in her. She saw the lie in me. And she wasn’t afraid to say it.

“You keep your emotions in a suitcase. You carry them tight to you. You decide when to open them and when to keep them shut. You need to stop doing that.”

Ouch. The truth hurts.

So excited to have this as a guest post on Good Women Project today. Head there to read the rest....