“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them. (Read the rest of the chapter, here!)
This is one of the most tender chapters read to date in this project, and I so, so identify with it as a parent. Recently, I got mad at Betty. She was whining about something her sister did (which was really nothing) while they played play-doh side by side. I had had enough, and curtly told her to knock it off or I was going to take the play-doh away. She started crying, but also picked up her toy scissors and started playing forlornly with the play-doh. When she looked over at me with big, teary eyes while trying to cut the play-doh like I had shown her, I felt like a complete monster for yelling. I simply could not be angry with her, even though she had been in the wrong. Even when she is determined to turn from me, how can I give her up? How can I turn her over? If God loves us like I love my girls, then this chapter must be divinely inspired.
We only have a few days of Advent left. It is a time when we are preparing for the (second) coming of Christ. We prepare for a Christ of terrible judgement, but also an infant-child Christ, and the tender analogies presented here reminded me of that. In fact, it reminds me of one of my favorite pieces of writing about God. In Kristin Swenson’s God of Earth, she reminds us what we do with babies: “Babies demand full attention and all of our energy. We fetch them things, smile when they do, and weep with exhaustion at their impossible demands. We kiss their feet,” then she goes on to say, “Well played, God. To come to earth and be of earth, not as a gigantic dictator, not as a volcano, a great white whale, a celebrity princess or a hurricane — but as a baby. Stroke of genius.”
And it is. A baby, for all it’s helplessness, demands (and receives) adoration in a way that none of the great things listed above could. I know this passage wasn’t written about Christ – it was written about the unruly and hard-headed children of Israel – but the similarities remain. Not to get to sappy, but it is a beautiful circle of love: God loves us as Xyr children, we love God the infant Christ.
We are all children of God. I think I say that nearly every post. But I want you to stop and think about that for a minute. We are all children of God. Beloved infants. It is hard sometimes to do so, but try to remember that everyone, even the worst of us, was a helpless newborn. A chubby baby. An unsteady toddler. A small and wondrous being, worthy of love. At the very least this thought may help calm you down when someone in front of you goes 10 MPH below the speed limit for 15 miles. My hope is it helps you let go of any lingering resentments you may hold towards anyone who has hurt you in the past.
Lots of bad people are out in the world doing bad things, and this isn’t a plea to just paper over the worst so we don’t see it. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. If you see everyone as a child loved, it is harder to stand by while those terrible things happen. Would you want to see your baby in a border detention center? Would you want to see your baby denied healthcare for a pre-existing condition? Would you want to see your baby hungry, cold, or lonely? Of course not, and that’s the way God feels about all of us. This Advent, let’s prepare for the return of Christ – both terrible judge and lovable infant – by remembering our brothers and sisters in need. If we love God, we need to love them, too.
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