Sunday, July 24, 2011

Green cups and grace

While getting my kids' dinner ready Sunday evening, I did something that my wife and I do several times each day. While pouring my kids' milk, I go to great extremes to ensure that they are the same. Not 'close'. Not approximate. Not equally good - identical. I get out green cups. I pour the same amount of milk in each. I put green lids on them, with green straws. I make sure that in every possible way, they are identical.


Because the minute I present my kids with something, they immediately turn and compare what they got to the other. Did I get as much milk? Did my brother get a cool cup color (like green, or blue, or purple) and I get stuck with a lame one (like Mickey Mouse, or orange)?

I'm sure parents around the country know what I'm talking about. I know my parents are still in this habit with me and my brother. At Christmas, we not only receive the same total value of presents, but as close to the same quantity of presents as possible. My mom will go buy 3 or 4 cheap presents to add to someone's pile, if that's what it takes to make the piles even.

Why are we this way?

Some would say that we just want a fair shake in life - we want to know that we get what we deserve. But I don't think that's it at all. Watching my kids, I think there is something far more substantial, far more important, underneath this longing for equal cups.

My kids, at their heart, are asking themselves a question: does Dad love me as much as he loves my brother, or is he withholding good things for me?

This is, I would argue, the key spiritual question that we all ask. It is what the Serpent used to tempt Eve (God withheld this one tree from you, because He knows it would make you like Him). It is what the lost question to convince themselves that God does not exist (why would God allow bad things to happen to me and others, if He could prevent it?) It is what the saved torment themselves with into depression and doubt (is God really going to give eternity to someone like me?)

At the center of each of our hearts is a fear. A terror that we might not actually be loved. We all know, deep down, that we aren't good enough to receive perfect love from our heavenly Father. That terror leads some to deny Him; it leads some to sin against Him; it leads others to set up rigid religious structures to try and 'earn' His love.

This is what faith is, my friends: that you believe that God is good, and that He will do those things that He promised. Even when He promised to love you, in spite of yourselves. Sometimes faith means that when He hands you the Mickey Mouse cup with white milk (while your brother gets the green cup with chocolate milk), you contentedly take what you were given and trust that He is giving you exactly what you need.

"I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)"

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