Saturday, December 8, 2018

Preaching the Gospel to the Backseat (And My Heart)



Trying to drive with one hand on the wheel and one hand cradling a mug of coffee, I glanced in the rear-view mirror. There was a lot of yelling happening in the back seat and I could just distinguish a flying fist, a handful of hair, and something about a book. Ah, the Christmas books we had just lugged out, probably a fight over one of those. Still, I sighed. Today had been one of those days that inevitably comes but I am never prepared for. Last day of our first term's exam, my hope had been for it to be laid back and exciting, but with one car in the shop and Will needing to be picked up and taken here and there it had been a bit chaotic instead. The kids were in chronically low spirits (thus the early pulling of the Christmas books) and I had somehow managed to completely run out of diapers and forget to pick them up on all our outings that day.

So now here we were, trying to peaceably mesh a diaper run with coffee hour and failing.

I nestled my coffee into the cup holder and desperately gripped the steering wheel with two hands as I took a deep breath, steeling myself to shout for quiet if need be. Well the need certainly came, but the grace of God shouted louder into that moment then I ever could.

"Hey, don't you dare go saying that you hate your sister, that's the kind of thing Jesus had to die for."

Now, I'll be honest, the gospel is something that we talk about outside of conflict, but it rarely comes up in moments like this because I'm usually too irritated to go down that road, so it sort of took me aback. "Where did that come from..." And being that you can't tell a four year old something like this without an automatic response, "why?" came flying at me faster than I could gather my wits together.

"Well... because... well... you know... because..."

Clearly I have this parenting thing down pat. I did respond though, after a long pause at a red light and a hasty swig of coffee.

"Well, because. . . because. . . because God is so very good and clean. These naughty things we do made us too dirty to be near Him. The good news though, is that that's why Jesus came - to make us clean enough to be near Him again. But when we do these naughty things it's like hurting Him all over again. You know though, I guess it also reminds us that God is still so much greater and cleaner than us and how much we need Him."

Silence. But I was silent too, partially because I had no idea what was coming next and partially because I was stunned at this whole gospel exchange. The memory of God's love and what Jesus had done for us was a calming oil upon our turbulent waters. Sure, it lasted about ten minutes, but I think it was as much for me as for them, and my side of it stayed pretty fresh.

Most days make me feel like I'm a Moses caught between some Israelites and God, which probably sounds really lofty of me but I don't mean it that way at all. Complaining, bickering, dealing some justice, showing some mercy, giving some instructions, and generally handling clean up duty. I'm in a place of leadership that I don't feel I belong to, not because I don't love my people but more because I feel inadequate to the task. "How about Aaron, Lord?" I'm tempted to plead. Too easily I forget to open my eyes to the bushes around me that burn with the presence of God, take off my shoes, and just worship.

God is so good, sweet friends. I know that's said a lot, but He really is. How else would redemption be possible in even the quibbles and fist throwing of the every day if He were not? The gospel that He came to save and to make new offers hope in the most exasperating moments of the day. Why? Because regardless of how the world may be falling apart around us, we who are wrapped in the cloak of His steadfast love are not consumed, his mercies are that immense (Lam 3:22). So I can bless the Lord in even the brokenness of this failed coffee hour slash diaper run because it's not me - thank God - who takes up the brokenness and makes it whole, it's Him. Because of that hope that we call the gospel, I can turn to the backseat (and myself) and say, "Hey, we've messed this up, but guess what? Jesus is the wisdom, the righteousness, sanctification, and redemption that we aren't. Big words with much bigger thanks due."

I'll be honest with you, as I close out these thoughts it's a different day and a different tough moment just happened moments before I began typing. This time, I didn't remember anything remotely close to gospel hope until maybe 30 seconds ago. Am I disappointed I didn't seize the moment back there? Yeah. But sitting here and reviewing all this everyday gospel hope has me so much more grateful for the reminder to seize the hand of the Lord instead.

Because my God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:28-29), I can exchange these flammable emotions and moments for His unshakable kingdom. Because of Him, completely and totally because of His mercy, I need not be consumed with anything but Him.

Is this what is meant by "every moment holy?" Well then, excuse me while I take off my slippers and worship.