Yesterday I told you about how I lost it.
Afterwards I walked to the soccer field to get my kids and cried and got a big stick stuck in my sandal that left a puncture hole and a welt across the top of my foot. I stopped to yank it out and shook my foot all wild in the air and thought I was going crazy.
Thank you to everyone who has commented, emailed, Facebooked. I am so thankful for your kind, wise words, your prayers, the passages you led me to read, and your own vulnerability in sharing stories.
One friend used the phrase, “I felt betrayed by Djibouti that day.”
Another reminded me of the ‘cursing’ prayers of David in the Zabuur (Psalms).
Others helped me grow in compassion toward people like the untouchables in India, Ethiopians here in Djibouti, African Americans in the deep south fifty years ago and sometimes still today. People who experience much worse and much more consistent abuse.
And then I started to think about Jesus. Who was also taunted and abused and lied about and betrayed.
He wouldn’t have yelled or thrown things or grabbed children to drag them…who knows where.
Jesus would have said, “Let the children come unto me.”
These children who came unto him in the Sunday School flannel graph boards or picture books, were clean and happy and pudgy and healthy and pleasant, probably wearing diapers or freshly laundered clothes, carried by adoring parents (mother and father) who were also clean and kind and happy.
That’s too easy.
I bet those children were nasty. Filthy, with flies living in the crusted boogers under their noses. Undernourished and bony, with reddish-brown hair and ribs showing. Bad teeth and pus-filled scabs. They probably stank and hadn’t washed in days, weeks, months. Probably some of them were bad. Ill-behaved, like the youths who taunted Elisha. Maybe they said, “Ooo look at the prophet, look at the teacher. He think he is so powerful. he thinks he is so smart. He isn’t from around here. We don’t know who his father is. Bastard. Liar. Crazy.”
Maybe they threw things at him. Maybe they dumped water or dirt on him.
Why else would the disciples try to keep the children and those them bringing away?
Matthew says the people brought children to Jesus so he could lay hands on them and pray for them and I wonder if some of those children weren’t the exact same ones who insulted him and threw things at him. I wonder if that is why, or if their dirt and stink and pushiness, is why the disciples tried to shoo them off.
But still Jesus said, “Come to me.” And he said, “The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Such as who? Dirty, sinful, selfish, mean, ignorant children? Yes. Why? Because they were coming to him like that. Knowing full well who they were and what they were.
Coming to him helpless, babies carried by others. Or coming to him slightly older, possibly ashamed of themselves, with their heads hung low and their eyes filled with fear that he would reject them or rebuke them. Coming to him hoping that he would forgive them, change them, accept them. Coming to him, repentant.
As I thought about this, about how I could have reacted like Jesus instead of like Rachel, guilt compounded my anger and frustration and embarrassment and I got a massive headache. I could barely see through my tears to spread jam on bread for dinner, could hardly hold the knife because my hands were still shaking so badly.
And then I thought, why waste time feeling guilty? Or angry? This wasn’t about my failure to act like Jesus. He isn’t surprised, and no one else is either, that I failed. He isn’t surprised that these kids behave like this. He even warned his followers about people hating them and insulting them and abusing them. And he knows that we are dust. He knows that I am no better than the kids. I shouted insults and threw things and lost my temper too.
And Jesus says to me also, “Come to me. Let me help you, let me change you.”
I got some priceless words from a friend Lebanon: “God still loves you even if you didn’t sing Kumbaya in the middle of the mob. That’s grace.” He knows all about me and my struggles and he calls me anyway.
Next time I’ll have to try singing Kumbaya, maybe that will help. And I could bring chocolate chip cookies to pass around. (laced with ipecac? also a suggestion from Lebanon)
I’ve got some serious character work to do and am beyond thankful for grace.
What helps keep you from exploding?