Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Passionate Barnacle

I, by nature, am not a passionate person.  Like a barnacle clings to the side of a ship, I cling to my equilibrium.  I do not like excitement in any of its various presentations: roller coasters, adventure movies, exotic vacations, even brightly colored toothpaste.  A really wild, life-on-the-edge day for me means trying a new flavor of coffee creamer.  My favorite television shows are reruns from the seventies: The Brady Bunch, Lost in Space, Little House on the Prairie.  Safe, predictable, familiar characters, all troubles neatly resolving in 30 or 60 minutes.    Steady as she goes - that's my mantra.  And for the most part, my husband and I have been fortunate enough to produce steady-as-she-goes children. 

 Enter youngest daughter.  Enter beautiful youngest daughter turning 15.  Allow her out of the house for just minutes where boys lurk in the shadows, and then fasten your seat belt.  It's going to be a bumpy ride.

She had been 15 for all of about an hour and a half when Andy came on the scene in a big way.  And they had been friends about for about 30 minutes when they decided their friendship was from the Lord, they were desperately in love and needed only to wait to be old enough to marry.

As children of the modern age, their relationship fomented around the use of social media: texting and Facebook, both much more difficult for parents to control than their actual time together.  However for this stealthy mother, it also offered one advantage:  information.  And when I discovered a text from Andy describing how he longed for the day he could hold our beautiful daughter in his skinny little arms and whisper his love for her into her ear, these middle-aged, paunchy, grey parents transformed into two roaring, fire-breathing dragons.  

Gone was any semblance of equilibrium or even rational thought.  Beautiful daughter was summarily whisked away into a heavily guarded fortress and locked into the highest tower.  The moat was stocked with hungry alligators, and experienced soldiers from all around the city were called in for reinforcement: youth group leaders, pastors, friends, Andy's parents.  The alarm was sounded in all the land and no resource went untapped in the protection of our precious possession.

This was not equilibrium.  This was passion.  Fierce, unrelenting, determined, iron-fisted, implacable and merciless.  It raged through my soul, threatening to destroy the very fabric of my being.

And for this child of the status quo, for this lover of all things moderate and familiar, for this shipside barnacle, this passion was…uncomfortable.  The situation aside, the passion itself got my attention.
This episode awakened me to something I always knew I was missing in my understanding of the Lord:  my Heavenly Father is passionate.  He is passionate. Could it be so?  Could the ferocity that ripped through my soul as I perceived a threat to my beloved daughter -- could it be that that is the same passion that moved the Father to send His Son to the cross.  Could it be that this is God's passion for me?

I have always wondered about Romans 8:32:  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

To my way of thinking, He who did not spare His own Son had already given us enough.  How could we be expecting even more from Him?  How does it follow that He would freely give us all things, when He has already given us so much?  

This is how I sometimes felt when the neighborhood children would come over to play and ask for more snacks, for example.  I would think to myself, "You children have already eaten through the entire bag of potato chips that I bought for my family, and now you want to eat all our cookies too?  Go home and eat your own family's snacks!"  Those children did not have this mother's heart.

But my own children -- that is altogether different.  I would never say to my daughter, "I have paid for years of ballet training for you!  That is enough -- you buy your own pointe shoes!"  Or to my son, "Ice hockey is the most expensive sport on the planet!  If you want to play hockey, we don't want to send you to college -- these years of ice hockey have been enough."  No, to them I want to give all that is good, with loads of Christmas and birthday presents besides.  Because them, I love.  What I want to give them is bounded only by the limitations of our checking account and by my perception of what is good for them.  Other than that, I'd give them the world, even my life.

They ride the tsunami of our love, a powerful force that makes joyous our sacrifice for them.

This collusion of ideas gives me an entirely different view of Romans 8:32.  How is it that He who did not spare His own Son for me would also be willing to freely give me all things?  There is no other explanation.  It must be that, just like our children ride the wave of our love for them, I ride the wave of the Father's love for me, that powerful force that moved Him to send Jesus in order that I could be made fit for His presence, that I could be rescued from the damnation I deserve.  But the force of His love was not spent, or depleted, on the cross.  The cross was the culmination of that powerful force, and that force still pours over me every day, beyond my ability to understand.
At times I manage to have so destitute an understanding of God's love that I see Jesus' death on the cross as contractual.  When He chose to die, He made a way for everyone, whether He liked them or not, whether He was glad they were there or not.  It was like getting into the zoo on the family pass -- one price pays for all, no matter whom.  Out of His good character, He gives His children good things.  The fact that He has so abundantly blessed me over the course of my lifetime was evidence of His goodness -- but not necessarily evidence that He likes me.  I am allowed in His presence because of what Jesus did for everyone, the likable and the unlikable both.  Nothing in that told me He feels affection for me.

But, if you'll indulge me in a slight contortion of Matthew 7:9-11, how can I, who am evil, feel this sort of fiery passion for my children, and think that my Heavenly Father does not feel the same fire for His?  Am I so big that I feel love, and He so small that He does not?  I do not think so.

I am no theologian.  Perhaps if I were better educated I would not have needed so long and tortured a road to have come to this enlightenment.  But as it is, my own passion, unwelcome though it be, instructs me.

To give you the end of the story, our fair maiden has been released from the high tower.  The alligators have been quelled for the time being and the valiant knight, Andy, has gained tentative entrance to the castle, contingent on his payment of particular homage to the king and queen --  to wit, he minds his courtly manners.  And these two grey, paunchy folk stand at the ready, at any hint of malfeasance on his part, to do battle again as fiery, passionate dragons!

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