Even though the mix and the icing cost less than $10, my son and I made a costly cake today. It cost him humility and responsibility; it cost me sacrificial love and forgiveness.
Over the years as a family, we have learned about breaches and repairs, connection and correction. We know that we will not love each other perfectly, but we do seek to love each other well. Even with all that knowledge, we hurt one another. I am surprised how much those hurts smart.
More than a wound from a friend or a congregant, wounds in our family sting, less from lack of love and more from excess of love. Breaches with those whom we work the hardest at loving, for whom sacrifice the most, and with whom we spend the bulk of our time sting more. From a rational standpoint this makes sense: vulnerability is proportional to strength of love.
This family thing is both sensitive and strong. And I am so thankful it is both.
Today, some big feelings were felt. Some unintentionally hurtful words were said. Space was given. Repair was needed. But today, I needed my Redeemer to help me with the repair. He was so gracious to remind me of a few things that I know in my head but needed to be reminded in my heart.
Souls Don’t Open Up on a Schedule
I am continually shocked at the timetable of souls. We don’t get notices alerting us of construction in the human heart. We give ample space for connection in our home. We try really hard to be intentional with family meals, solo times with each kid, adventures, and check-ins. It’s easy to slip into a version of the parenting prosperity gospel (if we do these things well, our children won’t experience pain rather than we do these things to provide space for our children to process the pain they are promised in this life). But souls don’t always crack during the allotted crevices of time. In fact, they very rarely do. Those times do provide the security of relationship which fosters a home where fissures and fractures are free to show themselves.
Souls need space to surface. And presenting emotions are usually not the source. Deep-watered souls require time for deep-water exploration (Prov. 20:5). These things cannot be rushed; thus things must be cancelled, schedules rearranged.
After an initial sense of being inconvenienced and the annoyance that hurts surface when I am most fatigued, God was so gracious to remind me that fractures are really invitations for deeper fusion.
Seeming Inconveniences are Subtle Invitations
This was not how I imagined our Saturday going. It was such a long week, I was hoping for some peaceful alone time. These were my initial thoughts. But God was not surprised by our Saturday. In fact, he had even prepared me through a few simple phrases that jumped out at me in my prayer book: Lord, make “able to love, strong to suffer, steady to persevere.” I’ve been praying these words multiple times a day for most of the week. And God graciously set up an opportunity for me to practice them today.
I think of Christ and the hemorrhaging woman. Every one else was put off by Jesus’s stopping in the midst of the crowd. Jairus’s daughter needed healing, and time was of the essence. But Jesus had another daughter to see to, one whom wasn’t even aware she was a delighted in daughter yet (Luke 8:43-48). Love lets itself be “inconvenienced.” Love will take detours to help the one in whom it delights.
Love Absorbs, but it Still Addresses
I have learned so much from the reunion of Jesus and Peter on the shores of Galilee. Peter was more overcome with joy at seeing Jesus than he was initially impeded by the guilt he carried over denying him three times. Thus, in his particularly dramatic fashion, he strips off his cloak, jumps in the water, and gives Jesus a wet welcome!
Jesus intentionally prepares a fish breakfast over a charcoal fire (which was a subtle recreation of the scene in which Peter denied him). Even though Jesus’s agape love has absorbed Peter’s failure, he still addresses it with him. He does Peter the favor of not pretending that something had not happened. A relational breach had occurred. This was not for Jesus’s sake; it was for the good of Peter. Three times in love, Jesus went there, offering Peter a chance to completely own and be forgiven of his three-fold failure (John 21: 9-19).
Peter needed to see the care in Christ’s eyes. He also needed to see the kind of love that absorbed the real relational costs he created. Such an eye-to-eye, face-to-face encounter transformed him.
Jesus was torn that I might have the ability to repair with my children. Through him, I have access to costly forgiveness, agape love that absorbs but still addresses, and love that makes itself vulnerable.
That cake we made today? It was costly. But it was nothing compared to the cross. In fact, in little moments like these, I am able to act out for my children (and reinforce for myself) the glories of the gospel. The Apostle Paul calls it filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ (Col. 1:24). Today, for us, it looked like processing over tears, taking our tired, beat-up souls to the grocery store together, and baking a cake as an act of redemptive repair.
Loving these children is changing me. It presses me into the One who loves perfectly. It invites me into his pain. It also invites me his absolute joy of repair and reconnection.
Addendum: we ate the costly cake tonight together as a family. The cake was scrumptious. The look on my son’s face as we enjoyed it together was far better!