It’s no joke that bedtime is an exercise in patience for me! Daniel often teases the kids and chases them up the stairs, Elijah belly laughing as he runs from “daddy monster”. The kids thunder back and forth between the upstairs bedrooms, in and out of the beds laughing. Daddy is all the fun at bedtime… and mom…. Umm not so much… I’m so done. My brain is tired, I want no more loud noises echoing through my head. But the kids don’t seem to get the memo! If dad isn’t there pushing for the fun, they are not deterred! They will make their own fun! However as much as this may drive me crazy, there is still that voice is the back of my head reminding me that I will miss this someday…
One of the routines I do enjoy at bedtime is reading to the boys. Currently we are reading short stories that are walking us through the bible from the beginning to the end. It’s January so we are in Genesis. Let me tell you I have never gone through these Old Testament stories with the kids in this detail before. It’s a little rough! The first brothers in the Bible show us the first murder! This shocked and horrified the boys! And though this isn’t new news to them, the boys are still a bit mad that Adam and Eve screwed things up by eating the “apple”. The story of Noah and the ark is fun with all the animal pictures. But Judah and Asher are now realizing how tragic this story is, “The whole earth was so evil God flooded it and killed everything?!?” Well besides Noah, his family, and two of each animal anyway… umm this story is dark. Then there is Lot’s wife who looks back in longing at the evil city of Sodom and Gomorrah and she turns to salt. “Hold on mom?! Did you just say she turned into salt?? Like the salt we eat? Did she look like a statue or just a pile? Was Lot really, really, mad at God that he did that to his wife?” And then there is the story of the twins Esau and Jacob, where Jacob, the younger brother, steals Esau’s birthright, and the mother helps Jacob do it!
These stories have been interesting to tackle to say the least. But it’s also been really good. I’m watching my boys grasp a deeper understanding of God’s Word and I’m watching their brains wrestle through theology.
Judah looked at me the other night and asked “why are these stories so hard, why are these people doing what they are doing? They are sooo bad!”
“Well,” I said “We see how much we need God. He keeps saving his people over and over again no matter how bad they are. We see how God keeps using broken people to bring about good things. And that’s still true for us today.” With this answer He got a little exasperated, this isn’t the first time I’ve compared people today, our family, our church and our friends, to people in the Bible and their need for God.
His response to this was “But we aren’t that bad! We aren’t like “those” people, mom!”
Ok, sure, you haven’t committed murder, we haven’t lied to the extent that we tricked a son in- law to marry the wrong daughter, I’m not angling for a favorite son to get all the inheritance over another, and no, your father mostly definitely would not have two wives!
My older sons that are wrestling with this are still fairly innocent. They know people today do bad things and they know that they are sinners. But they haven’t truly felt their “need” for a Savior yet. They have a beautiful budding faith in our Lord, and I love watching it grow, but they are seeing these people in the Bible mess up in huge ways, and there is a struggle for them over God using these characters in His story. There are many Godly characters in the Bible that we love, but even those characters still have their areas of big sin and struggles.
I mean if I’m being honest there are so many times, joined my boy’s in thinking: “I’m so glad I am not like them!” And yet if that is where we land when we look at these stories, we are missing the whole point.
God uses these characters to show how much we need Him.
We need a savior. From the first story to the last, we see how people love themselves and choose to do the wrong thing and yet God keeps extending his love and mercy to them.
The older I live the more I see my need for Jesus. The more I see my struggles are not so different from the people we read about in the Bible. We have blatant and hidden sins. The enemy is always luring us into sin and then yelling at us to live in its shame.
But if we see our sin and justify it by saying “Well at least I’m not like them”, then we are missing the point. The key is not comparing my sin to another’s sin. That won’t free me from the weight of guilt and shame. That just numbs, like a glass of whisky pushes away the pain for the evening only to find that the same pain is there the next day.
At the very end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says this:
Matthew 5:48 “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
There are a number of ways we can justify feeling good about ourselves. Tallying the times we have “paid it forward”, how we have loved others well, kept our temper in check, given to worthy causes, sacrificed hours of time in service to our neighbor or maybe looked at others who we see as a mess, making our circumstances not seem so bad. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us what living a Godly and good life looks like. If we are able to check a number of those boxes, that can make us feel good. But then at the end of the passage Jesus drops the gavel… And it hits us all, whether you feel pretty good about your life or you feel you are too far gone to be cared about.
“Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.”
Ummm… last time I checked no one has done that… well except Jesus. We may be able to see a few ways we have done things well. But no one has done them all and even the things we have done well are not done perfectly or with pure motives.
We are all different, we all have our own struggles. But each of us has a thread connecting us to the characters in the Bible. The more the light of Christ shines into my life, the more I see how much I am like “those people” and need the saving redemption of Christ’s work.
Jesus slays us all with the law, not so we can try to uphold it, but so that we realize our need for Him to uphold it for us.
Jesus shows that we all need a Savior. “Those people” in the Bible need Him, as well as I do today.
I may look at my life and see a mess some days, I’m sure those in the Bible did, but we can see how God was working to redeem and use them right where they were.
It is in Christ that God can use me in His story for His good. I find my worth and security, not in upholding a standard or in my comparison to others, but in Christ.
As my boys grow in understanding of faith and wrestle with their own struggles, I pray they will keep going back to God’s Word and remember that there is no sin too big, no place too far, or ability too small for God.
These people in the Bible remind us that we are never too far gone in what we have done for Christ’s saving grace. You are never useless in Christ. God chases us down with his love and then uses to us further His kingdom. You are loved by God and valued by God.