Wednesday, November 14, 2012

No Greater Gift

I currently have a three month old (craziness!) with a cold (not fun).  It started yesterday with a cough and some sneezing and today my little guy is all stuffed up and still coughing.  No fever though, so thank you, Lord!

Today as I snuggled him close to me and watched his little eyes water and heard the wheezing in his breath I whispered over him, "I wish I could take this from you and have it myself.  I love you."  And as soon as I finished that sentence a treasured memory flashed through my mind.

I don't have many memories of my mom.  And the ones that I do have, the hard ones outweigh the good.  But one of the memories I cherish was when I was maybe 7 years old.  I had a horrible cold that consisted of a fever, sore throat and no energy.  I spent days on the couch watching Nickelodeon- miserable because it hurt to swallow even water.

I remember my mom sitting with me on the couch (I should specify- we never had a couch growing up.  We had hand me down patio furniture that my grandparents had reupholstered so it had normal material instead of the orange plastic-y fabric it originally came with.  I never knew this wasn't normal until I was in college.  I still feel deprived).  She had my head on her lap and she sat with me stroking my hair as I lay exhausted on the couch.  Then she said, "I wish I could take this from you so you wouldn't have to be sick anymore.  If I could be sick instead of you, I would."

Such a simple statement from the heart of a mother.  One I now fully understand.  And if this memory was precious before I was a mom, you better believe I hold it even more dear.  I get the love she felt for me in that moment.  She wasn't the best mom.  At times she wasn't a good mom.  But I know from that one statement that she did, indeed, love me.

There's something incredibly deep about the statement my mom said to me.  I was suffering.  I was sick.  I couldn't cure myself.  I couldn't fix me.  But she wanted to.  She was willing to suffer instead of me.  But she couldn't.  But her heart was there.

I have this other sickness.  It runs rampant through my body.  The truth is, it was killing me.  I was sick and I couldn't fix me.  I was suffering and I was going to die.

The sickness, you may have heard about it. It's called sin.  We're all born with it.  The Bible says in Romans that we've all sinned.  Sin is an archery term meaning to miss the mark.  I know I have missed the mark many, many times.  We are born with a condition of sin and then as we live out our lives there is the symptom of sin every day.  Ever lie?  Cheat?  Steal? Ever doubt God is who He says He is?  Ever curse?  Take God's name in vain?  Ever judged another person?  Gossiped? Have you ever lived like you were the king of your life?  Sitting on the throne of your life like you were in charge and life was all about, only ever about you?  

I have.  And if you're really honest, you have, too.  We're sick.  Sin sick.  But do you know what God's heart is?  It's the heart of a loving, kind parent.  He knew we were sick.  He knew there was nothing we could do in our power to fix ourselves.  We were and would always be sick with sin.  

But God is also just.  And the Bible says that the wages (what we earn) for our sin condition is death.  Forever separated from the God that lovingly created us and wants to know us and to be known by us.  So He couldn't just choose to ignore our condition.  Something had to be done.  We had to be made well.

And so, the heart of our Heavenly Father desired much what my mom desired when she uttered those sweet words to me way back when.  He desired to take our condition away.  Jesus came and lived a life that had no sin.  And when he was crucified on that cross it was God saying to his kids, "I am taking your place.  I am taking your sin upon me so that you can be well.  So that you can be made whole.  So that you can know the One that loves you and desires a relationship with you."  Jesus died so that when we pass from this earth we can still be in relationship with God.  But death could not hold him and after three days he rose.  He conquered death.  He conquered sin.  He lives so that we can live lives that are full of God's grace and rich in His mercy.  His resurrection means that there is hope for our sin condition.

It's really a beautiful picture of the heart of a parent for His kids.  But the reality is, it's a gift and a gift is useless unless we choose to accept it and open it.  A gift that just sits on a shelf unopened was not the intent of the one that gave the gift.  The intention of the giver is that we would open it, accept it and enjoy it.  

I was 17 when I learned about my sin condition and my inability to make myself well.  To make myself whole.  And it was then that I realized that God was loving.  He made a way for me, for you, to be well.  Jesus suffered in our place.  I was 17 when I accepted the gift God has given.  At 31, I'm still amazed at this gift and how loving the God of the universe is.  And as a mom, I continue to grasp more and more what God's love is like.  I used to think that this gift sometimes depended on me and how I acted or how "good" I was.  As a mom, I now see, I love Sullivan because of who he is (my son) not what he does.  I would take his cold from him in a heart beat not because he's a good baby or because he deserves it but because I love him.  Because he's my son.  Because I'm his mama.  

In case you don't know, God is crazy about you.  Not because you are awesome (although, you probably are pretty cool) or because you do amazing things (although, you might do some amazing things).  He loves you and he took your place on the cross because of who He is.  Because He's your Heavenly Father.  Because He's loving.  Because He's good.  Because He's awesome and He does do amazing things.  

If you want to get more of a picture of God's heart and who He is, check out the book of John in the New Testament (I like the NIV version, but that's just personal preference.  The Message would be good.  And unless you are partial to "thee's" and "thou's" I wouldn't recommend starting to read the King James Version).  

"Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends."  John 15:13 (NIV)