I say ‘fat’. God says ‘ you are fearfully and wonderfully made’.
I say ‘too much’. God says ‘just right’.
I say ‘chaotic, disorganised’. God says ‘ Made in my image’
I say ‘i’m lost’. God says ‘i’ve got plans for your good’
I say ‘broken’. God says ‘complete in me’
I say ‘i can’t do it.’. God says ‘fear not, for I am with you’.
I say ‘ you seem so distant’. God says ‘i tabernacle amongst you’.
I say ‘ the world is too dark’. God says ‘ the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it’.
I say ‘must try harder’. God says ‘i’ve already done it’.
It’s Christmas in two days. Two days too many, in my four (and a half!) year olds opinion. This is the first time he’s really got the excitement thing, and boy, it’s wearing.
I don’t remember the last time I felt that way. I really don’t. I feel as if I should, as if all the sparkle and glitter should mean something more to me, but it doesn’t. I just don’t feel Christmas, and in a society where the Christmas season apparently starts in October, I feel decidedly the odd one out.
Why? So many. The dreams I had for the year, unfulfilled and likely to remain so. The babies we will hold in our hearts but not our arms this Christmas. The stresses and anxieties of every day life. The desperate worry for friends stuck in appalling situations. The ones who should be at our Christmas tables and instead will only be there as photos on the mantle. S many reasons.
But then I read the Christmas story again. There’s no sparkles. No glitter. No expensive presents, no ‘family time’. Just two frightened teenagers in a stable. Desperately hoping they were doing God’s will, desperately afraid it would break them into pieces.
That’s the Christmas I can deal with. God in human form, Emmanuel. The one who sees our brokenness and enters into it willingly. The word of God, who tabernacles amongst us. The one who becomes broken for me, so that somehow my brokenness is made whole.
Do you know what I dread most right now? It’s leading brownies on Tuesday.
I have a small group on compassionate, bright, insane brownies. For the last year, they’ve been supporting guides and brownies in Syria. One of the girls has a relative living there, and this has meant a lot to them. On top fundraising we have a link to a unit and they’ve loved supporting as much as they can.
They’re not silly girls. Well, mostly anyway. At least some of them will hear the news. And they’ll have to face the fact that the adults have failed. Again.
Because the truth about the people they’ve been supporting? Some will die. They’ll be at home or brownies or work or school, and an idiotic decision made by a government in a different continent will end their lives. And it won’t be just them. Who knows how many worlds will be ripped apart?
My Brownies get it. They love deeply and passionately. They see the world in black and white, not the million shades of grey we use when we’re justifying crap to ourselves. They get it, and they invest and they make relationships, and at some point, one of these people they have come to love is going to die.
My Brownies get it. They’re seven, and they get it. And on Tuesday, I’m going to have to try and explain by the grownups don’t. Pretty shamed to be one of them tonight.
That was my 4 year old last night. I may have slightly bewildered him with my tearful response, but I honestly couldn’t have been happier or more proud of him at that moment.
Later, I got to thinking. I honestly cannot remember the last time I felt that way about myself. Not that I hate myself – I’m just as great and just as flawed as most people in the universe – but that sheer joy of being who I was created to be? It’s been a while, if it ever existed at all.
As a mum, I worry. I worry that somewhere down the line, my kind, smart, beautiful boy is going to come across something that’s going to rob him of that joy. Someone who will tell him he’s not a real boy, because boys don’t like cuddles and kisses and gentleness. Someone who will make him feel inferior for his compassion, or who will pressure him to do things he doesn’t want to do, because that’s what the cool kids do.
Or maybe it won’t be one of his peers. Maybe he’ll read the Sun one day, and decide that real masculinity is all about ogling boobs and watching football. Or he’ll watch a movie and come away with the idea that he needs to sleep with any woman who’ll have him, just because that’s what men do. Or he’ll read a magazine, and he’ll decide if he’s not tall with a six pack, he’s just not worthy.
I don’t know what the answer is. I can tell my son until I’m blue in the face how wonderful he is, but I suspect at some point he’s going to stop believing me. And all I can do is keep loving him until he begins to see the truth again. It’s all any of us can do, but I find it so hard to live in a world where gender norms are so deeply ingrained that it’s inevitable that someone at some point will tell him he’s not enough.
I pray that when it does happen, he has the skills to recognise it for the lie it is. I pray he’ll be able to recognise himself as a truly loved and cherished son of the King, full of worth and value. But I also pray for a day in which I don’t have to worry. That we recognise people for who they are, rather than what they do or how they spend their time. When we truly believe that each person has value.
I am so glad that my son is happy being who he is. I just hope and pray for all the sons and daughters, that we learn to be happy with them and rejoice in the infinitely complex and wonderful people they are.
Recently, Isaac and I have been reading through the Bible he was given at his baptism. Isaac has a very real faith, so mummy decided it was time we started to look a little more at some of the great stories and events of the faith. And what an interesting idea that was…
We start with creation. Happily looking at the beautiful pictures of the Garden of Eden, discussing about how God made everything and it was good. So far, no problem. Then we got to the whole Adam and Eve shambles.
‘But mummy, if God made everything, why did he make that nasty snake?’
Holy hand grenades, start with the easy questions there kid! And so it’s gone on. Noah’s Ark. Moses and the plagues. Jacob and his delightfully fratricidal offspring. Joshua and the Caananites. Story after story after story that, frankly, makes God look like a bit of an arse. Today was Moses, and looking at my stunning, beautiful 4 year old and trying to work out how a loving God could allow the wholesale murder of innocent children nearly tore my heart in two.
I’m finding it really hard going. Yes, I know Jesus is coming, but let’s be honest, it’s still pretty grim reading, this whole Christianity thing, isn’t it? We go from there to Paul and his ideas on women, homosexuality, and various other topics, to the history of a church that historically hasn’t exactly been sweetness and light. From the crusades to the sexual abuse, from burning people who disagree with us to silence at all the wrong moments, we’ve ballsed it all up pretty mightily.
And yet. Actually in some ways I find that reassuring. Because somehow, despite screwing it up completely, the church survives. And it survives with a message of triumphant love and freedom that the world simply can’t offer. An impossible faith for an impossible species, called to partner with God not because of our own great worth but because of His great mercy.
As I read these stories, sometimes I get really angry. And I think that’s ok. Blind passivity in faith is never a good thing, and it’s right to question. It’s right to rage against unfairness and oppression. But I also feel just a tiny bit hopeful. Because I read the story of a people broken and unloveable, and yet somehow, hope still triumphs. The church militant still limps on. The candle never goes out completely. Easter is always on the way. Aslan is on the move, no matter how hard we try and keep winter going. Death never wins, despite how inevitable it seems.
Why didn’t you intervene?
Will it be ok?
Why does a church following the path of the most loving person to walk the earth seem to spew so much hatred sometimes?
You created love, right? So how can it be suddenly evil if that love is between two people of the same sex?
Seriously, cancer. Why?
Ditto miscarriage. I thought you were supposed to care about all life.
Also, why the wasp? What possible purpose is that for?
Some of the many questions that fill my brain. Don’t try and give me the answers, I’ve heard all of them…some good and some frankly crap. But even the best answer is only really a guess.
An impossible God.
So why bother?
Because of the impossible. Because God with us, God made flesh, God in our weak human form, is impossible. It’s not normal. It’s not how the story goes.
And then that same God, brutally murdered, the Creator at the hands of the created. Dying. And then rising. Because all that stuff that weighs us down doesn’t weigh him down. It’s not impossible for Him.
Maybe we try too much to answer the impossible. It’s good to explore faith, but it’s good to acknowledge when there just aren’t answers, and the whole damned house of cards is about to come toppling down.
Because that’s maybe when we realise the amazing truth. God with us. He gets it. And though we don’t see it now, one day he will be the ultimate glorious answer to all our questions.
Come, Lord Jesus.