How God Loves Us In Our Mess

sleepingI don’t remember what we were talking about when it happened. I just remember I was having a nice time eating my buffalo chicken salad in the booth of the restaurant when my Mom cried out, “Oh no! Bekah!

But it was too late. My two-year-old daughter who was sitting in my lap, began throwing up right there in the booth. “Give her the bag!” Mom said.

I scrambled for the plastic Target bag next to me, and held it out, missing most of it, and catching only a few ounces. I sprang up from the booth, holding her in my arms, wet with vomit and ran through the restaurant, yelling, “Excuse us!” at a crowd of people in the lobby, who moved like frantic seagulls as we dashed wildly through them. I was still clutching the plastic bag of puke in my hand, which I’m sure left a nice trail behind us.

As we burst into the ladies’ room, she threw up again, on the floor in front of the sink.

I locked us into the first open stall and squatted next to the toilet, holding her frail little body on my knee and told her, “You can throw up in the toilet, okay?” But she just looked at me with her deep blue eyes, and started crying, “I’m sorry Mommy.” She collapsed her blonde head on my shoulder, “I’m sorry.”

And my heart wrenched. “Oh honey,” I said, pulling her close to my chest, “You don’t have to be sorry. It’s okay.”

Mom came in and handed us baby wipes under the bathroom stall door and helped us into our car. She wished me well, gave me a hug and some hand sanitizer. And we headed out for our hour journey  home.

In the car, she fell fast asleep just minutes after pulling out of the parking lot. And as I drove, she smelled like throw up, and so did I. Her clothes were wet with it, and so were mine. But I couldn’t help glancing into the rearview mirror at her–sleeping with her head cocked, still holding the empty box of wipes I had given her to catch her throw up in.

And I never loved her more.

My heart ached with love for her.

I just wanted to stop the car and crawl back there and hold her, just as she was. I wanted to keep telling her it was okay, and that I was taking care of her, and that I wouldn’t leave her side. I wanted to tell her, even in her mess, that she was still so beautiful to me. That she was never more precious.

That I loved being her mom.

Tears trickled down my cheeks, as I drove the interstate that day. Love-sick for her.

And as I drove, and glanced at her, precious and asleep, I thought of God.

Of how He feels about us.

Because He knows what it’s like to be a parent. He knows exactly how it feels. This. This deep ache of love.

This love I feel today, that is so tender and violent, it would move mountains, and rend heavens, and go to the ends of the earth to rescue her–He feels this all the time.

For His sons.

And His daughters.

When He finds us deep in our mess, our weakness, our sickness, with throw up in our hair and tears on our cheeks. He doesn’t run from us.

He runs to us.

He sprints, He chases wildly. He scoops us into His arms. He washes us. And clothes us. And comes to our rescue.

And this is why He came.

For, “He remembers that we are dust.” And He is gentle, and kind, full of mercy and compassion, slow to anger, and rich in love. “A bruised reed He will not break, a smoldering wick, He will not snuff out.” 12:20

And Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17

I look back in the rearview mirror again, and see her. And love her. With aching love. And know, just a little bit, of how God feels toward me. Toward every son. And every daughter.

In need of rescue.

St. Patrick’s Day is for Sinners

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Last Sunday, we drove through a downtown city that was literally swarming with green. Though it was still several days before St. Patrick’s Day, crowds of people were decked out in bright green wigs, boas, leggings (yes, they come in green), and even tutus (also bright green.) It looked like Party City exploded, as many donned green beads, leprechaun hats, and blinking clover “antlers.” People were shouting, cussing, dancing, and kissing. We could barely drive down the road, as people aimlessly crossed the streets,  (and we came pretty close to taking a few of them out.) Perhaps one too many pints?

We were on our way to Sesame Street Live.  My husband was driving and my daughter was in the backseat and even though we were pretty excited to let her meet Elmo, and Big Bird, and Cookie Monster, I began to get more and more uncomfortable.

As we inched through the traffic, one girl with long blonde hair kept running up to cars and pressing herself through the open window, almost crawling inside of the vehicle. I made sure our doors were locked, and windows were rolled up tight. I for sure didn’t want her crawling in with us. Horns and breaks slammed and the “green people” flipped off cars, and screamed profanities.

I kept glancing in the backseat at Selah, whose eyes were wider than saucers. I wanted to make sure no one was flashing her, or peering in at her through the window and scaring her. But we were stuck. Wedged tightly within traffic held up by crowds. And I couldn’t speed us up at all. I couldn’t cover her eyes. Or her ears.

And I simply wanted to protect her, to shield her from…from this. From being stuck in the midst of these people.

But I can’t. Even if I don’t like it…this is our world. The drunken people screaming with too much alchohol, and way too much green.

These are the people Jesus came for. The people Jesus loved.

And this is what St. Patrick was all about. Reaching sinners. Reaching the lost. Reaching people with mistakes. Reaching people with nothing to look forward to except keg’s and eggs and to drink three days out of their remembrance. Because it hurts to much feel. And they just want to feel something, other than their pain, other than their memories, other than their shame. They just want to feel good.

Don’t we all?

That’s why Jesus came. To save us out of our sin. To save us out of our shame. To give us a way out. To take these rebel crowds, and make them into sons and daughters. To take these prostitutes, and call them His bride. To take the sick, the broken, the weak…and give them new life. I think Jesus would have loved to walk these streets. Because He was a friend of “tax collectors, and sinners.”

Sinners like you. Sinners like me. Sinners lost in crowds of green.

St. Patrick’s Day is for sinners. St. Patrick was for sinners. And he learned to love them in a way that would actually mean something to them. Just like Jesus, who said “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).  Patrick was one of these “sinners”, who was captured by Irish raiders when he was 16. They took him to Ireland, where he was held a captive until he escaped in his early twenties. But during his captivity, God freed him. Not just of the chains of steel, but the chains of sin and shame and fear. And twenty years later, when most people are soaking up a good retirement, he returned to Ireland for one purpose only: to save sinners. [To read the full, incredible history of this holiday check out this article on Desiring God called Remember St. Patrick’s Day.]

I want to learn to love with the kind of love St. Patrick had. The love that doesn’t look down on people. Even people who are known as complete pagans, sinners, and barbarians–like the people Patrick reached. But to love without bounds. To love in a way that lowers myself, and raises others up. That lowers myself, and raises God up. I want to teach my daughter to love like this. 

I’m starting to wonder if love isn’t really even love until it hurts, or get’s a little uncomfortable. Patrick wasn’t afraid of that though. You know why he went back to Ireland? He had a dream. In the dream he heard an Irish accent plead, “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.” 

And he did. He walked among sinners. He walked among the lost. And when he looked at them, he loved them. He got involved in their rescue.

Whether you’re Irish, or not–this holiday is for you. For us. For me. 

This holiday is about sinners…who needed a rescue…and because one man obeyed God’s voice…they were rescued. One man paid attention to his dreams. One man followed the Holy Spirit to place full of wild, barbaric people, and by His power, He loved them, and showed them salvation. In Jesus. 

That’s better than luck. That’s better than being drunk. That’s the power for us who believe. 

Celebrate St. Patrick’s day. Because it’s about saints who lay down their lives for sinners. And it’s about sinners…who get set free. And it’s about Christ, who rescues us all. 

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

The girl walking down the street wearing green devil horns…she needs to know–what this holiday is about. She needs to know Christ. And I pray as we listen, and as we learn to embrace the culture God has set us in, as we follow the Holy Spirit even into the wild, barbaric, pagan places, that one day she will know that this is not about green devil horns, but the cross of Jesus Christ. She will know it’s not about luck, it’s about salvation, it’s about freedom. She will know it’s not about getting drunk on green beer, but being satisfied by rivers of living of water. So she can learn for the first time, to drink freely. 

Perhaps our culture is in need of more people like St. Patrick. Perhaps our culture is full of people who need hope. Who secretly are saying to those who are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and gospel of Christ,

“Come, walk among us.”