Tag Archives: new perspective

Forgive Me for Having Killed You

11-year-old Gleny, whom my husband and I are in the process of legally adopting along with her older sister and younger brother, recently approached me in the midst of the afternoon hustle and bustle in our kitchen and motioned her hand to pull me aside and speak in private.

This not being uncommon, I left whatever bulk-sized snack or dinner-warming project I was so intensely dedicated to on the kitchen counter and took a few steps to accompany my wild, immature, affectionate daughter near the doorway to our storage closet. (I think she adores me almost as much as I adore her.)

Our emotional roller-coaster Gleny wore a calm yet very resolute facial expression. I crouched down in front of her as she said: “Forgive me, Ma, for having killed you.”

Although her words could not have been spoken more clearly, my mind did a couple dazed somersaults as I thought I must have surely misheard her. After searching her face a second or two, groping for any kind of meaning, I asked dumbly, “What’s that?

She repeated, completely sane, her brown eyes trained on mine: “Forgive me for having killed you.”

Oh.

Of course.

Having seen the dawn of understanding shed its light upon my face, she sighed and added, “Earlier this afternoon. When I got mad at you.”

I smiled into her eyes, remembering all too well what had happened between us just an hour or two before. I had asked her to do such-and-such terrible thing (like study or hang up her school uniform or wash her snack Tupperware), and she had responded in a moody, delayed obedience, muttering under her breath words that could sting the ears and heart. Such instances are not uncommon for my Wild-Miss-Gleny-in-the-Process-of-Being-Transformed, but her repentance and way of seeing the situation are definitely new.

Still crouched in front of her in that little nook in our busy kitchen, I followed her lead, humbling myself: “Forgive me for the times I’ve killed you. We’re all murderers, aren’t we?”

She smiled big, but perhaps my joy was even bigger than hers.

She sees, understands.

For the past couple months in our pull-your-chair-up-and-let’s-sit-in-a-circle Bible study, we’ve been studying Jesus’ radical words:

“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire.” (Matthew 5:21-22)

 

So now…the standard – the expectation – has been raised. Infinitely so.

We are no longer asked to merely abstain from physically taking another human being’s life. (I don’t know about you, but I’m doing incredibly well with that command. I mean, I can pat myself on the back and announce to the world that my behavior in regard to the no-murder command is spotless. I haven’t slipped up even once!)

But Jesus says that now anyone who becomes angry unjustly is guilty of the same crime. Guilty of murder. Who hasn’t gotten mad at least once (or thousands of times) in their lifetime?

So, then, we’re ALL…murderers.

You know those cute babies or toddlers who go on a screaming and kicking fit even though they’ve been fed, changed, and had a nap recently? Yeah, they’re murders too.

So why did Jesus have to go and make the standard so unattainably high? Why couldn’t he just leave us with the solid, respectable command not to kill (which, even if broken, is quickly justified in times of war or self-defense)? Why would he go so far as to call all of humanity murderers? Even the ‘good people’?

We chewed on these questions with our kids, students and Christian laborers for several weeks as we met every Tuesday and Thursday in our oblong rectangle in our dining room to dig deep in the Word, in the Truth. I even posted these questions all over the walls in our school building to get the kids thinking in their free time.

After much effort, no one could understand why Jesus did it, why he went and raised the bar so high that no one could reach it. It almost seemed like a bad move to do so, right? A lot of his closest followers and friends abandoned him because his teachings were so hard to accept. I mean, what was he thinking? Did he want to discourage us all, eliminate us from the great Morality Competition? Why did he command us to do what we simply can’t?

The answer:

So that we would recognize that we need a Savior.

Every single human being.

We had (have) to recognize that we simply cannot do it on our own, cannot reach the standard of perfection by our own strength. If all the commands from Heaven were easily attainable with a little moral training (and excusing), why send a Savior to die a cruel death, taking on the punishment we deserve? (And the ‘good people’ cry out: “What do you mean ‘the punishment I deserve’? I’m a ‘good person’ — I don’t kill, don’t steal and am (mostly) faithful with my spouse! I mean, I lie sometimes, but who doesn’t?“)

‘Good people’ and ‘respectable citizens,’ don’t await a punishment; murderers do. And especially serial killers, those who go around time and again taking the lives of others! (Are you starting to get the point?…How many times have I — have you — gotten mad today? In this past week? In the last 25 years?)

I praise God that my wild Gleny recognizes — as she did the other day and has done so several times since — that her temper flare-ups are the equivalent of taking a machete to someone’s throat or gunning them down with an AK-47. Because she understands this, she can very quickly and easily jump to the conclusion that she needs a savior. 

So this knowledge of our status as ‘murders’ before the Just, Perfect God is infiltrating our household and rather effortlessly becoming a part of our worldview and our daily interactions as we continuously come back to the cross, remembering the punishment that we no longer have to pay.

A few days after the aforementioned incident in the kitchen with Gleny, 12-year-old Josselyn with her too-short bangs (that she cut) approached me in my bedroom doorway, her eyes wide, and informed me: “Before [learning that we are all murderers] I had never thought about it like that, but I’ve…killed a lot of people…” Her eyes and voice wandered off a bit as she processed such a strong thought.

Suddenly her eyes grew even wider as she swung up an extended finger to my face: “I’ve killed YOU!” And then, under her breath, “Several times.”

She looked up at me, both shocked and relieved at her own statement, and we began to laugh together.

“I know, Josselyn. I’ve killed you on numerous occasions too. But the good news is that Jesus already suffered our murderers’ punishment, and now we are forgiven if we believe in him. I mean, the only reason it makes sense to forgive one another is because God has forgiven us. Right?”

She sighed and nodded her head. Together we both continued to laugh out of a total relief — awe — at the goodness of God. He lets murderers off the hook, punishing his own son in order that the killers might experience freedom and mercy. What extravagant, undeserved love!

By God’s Design: Zebras in Honduras

Recently a very well-meaning person gave me their careful recommendation that we do some kind of preliminary scanning/interviewing/selection process before accepting any new children either into our home/family or into our school programs so as to hopefully eliminate those wily youth who just can’t seem to get their act together, those who are ‘too far gone,’ or those who demand so much extra help and attention due to special needs. Focus on those who can really succeed, those who really want to be ‘helped’, they told me.

To some extent and from a certain perspective, this thought can be rationalized and even embraced.

The problem, however, is that when you run a hospital for souls, everyone who comes through the front gate is sick. Some are close to death and need intensive, prolonged treatment just to enjoy some level of stability (and even so they may always require their oxygen tank or weekly dialysis treatments), whereas others may stroll in with nothing more than a flu-bug or strep throat, receiving a quick, effective treatment so as to recuperate their vibrant health. Others, chronic, degenerative illnesses. Others, mental health issues. Others, mere toothaches.

I cannot imagine a hospital where the doctors and nurses stand at the front door turning away the most grave of cases, receiving only those with ear infections, sprained ankles and skin rashes while refusing those with stomach cancer, blindness, and advanced diabetes.

This perspective is one that the Lord has been etching out in us during these last few months or perhaps years. I cannot tell you how many times we’ve wanted to pull our hair out and stomp around like madmen, absolutely bewildered and frustrated and exhausted to the bone with some of the cases our Father has brought through our front gate. This is beyond us! Who can stand this child? He lied again! When will she ever learn? Why can’t You just send us ‘normal’ children? I’ve had enough! Oh, how easy it would be to just turn them away and accept the cute ones, the obedient ones! Yes, as weak humans we prefer those who only need a slight nudge in the right direction, a few safe prayers, and a reasonable investment of time, energy and love in order to ‘recuperate’ and enjoy the full life available to them in Christ Jesus. Send us those, Father! The others are just too hard, require too much sacrifice.

Just last week Darwin and I attended an organized debate among our high school students. My jaw dropped when the teacher asked one of the students (a 14-year-old boy who has ‘lazy-fool-who-doesn’t-want-to-change-despite-our-best-efforts’ stamped across his forehead in big, bold letters) to name an animal species indigenous to Honduras. After having had over a week to research, rehearse and prepare the debate with several classmates on this specific topic, this young man looked bewildered by the question (Just say ‘toucan,’ for crying out loud!) and answered erroneously, “Uh…Zebras.”

The thought that screamed through my mind: “Get him outta here! Fool, fool, fool! No wonder he gets like 15% on all of his quizzes! How many times have we sat down to counsel and advise him, pray with him, and all to no avail? We’ve known this kid for over two years, and we’ve seen almost zero fruit from our efforts to invest in his life! I can’t stand students like this!”

And yet every time we get ready to scratch one of them off our list, expel them from school or promise up and down that so-and-so is beyond help and will die in their own foolishness, that quiet voice inside of us says, “Bring him back. Go to him, and bring back the straying sheep into the safety of My fold. Go.”

Oh, how short-sighted we are! We look at three or six months or a couple years of dogged effort (with what we perceive as zero results), wipe our hands clean, and smuggishly pronounce to the world, “Well, we tried. We’ll keep praying for so-and-so, but from a distance. Hopefully he’ll crash and burn elsewhere and then maybe – maybe – he’ll wake up from his stupor and see the light of all that we were trying to teach him. He’s in God’s hands now.”

But our Father says, “Go get him! Bring him back if he is willing; encourage him again. Reassure him of My love again. Speak the Truth to him again. Hug him again. This work is not accomplished according to your schedule! Time means nothing to me! Go!

And so we do. Just as Jesus’ words reverberated around the Garden of Gethsemane, so do they in the midst of our own conflicting thoughts: “Father, if it is possible, please take this cup of suffering from me. But may Your will be done, not mine.”

And so in the last several weeks we have gone out looking for lost sheep, and several have been found and brought back for God’s glory. Due to the general chaos and indiscipline that reign in our little rural neighborhood, a good handful of students both in our elementary and high school programs had become discouraged with our (very manageable) expectations of homework, discipline, work ethic, etc, and had simply stopped coming to classes or been expelled for extreme behavioral issues.

My thought: “Good riddens! They never wanted to be here anyway. Well, I sure hope they learned something during all those Bible studies they had been attending while they were in school with us, and I hope they were able to catch a glimpse of the person of Jesus Christ in and through us while they were here. Well, we certainly tried. We opened our home to them with all the love in the world (all my love in the world, which isn’t much) and they simply didn’t cherish the opportunity extended to them. Have a nice life, although it probably won’t end well for you!

And Jesus speaks to our heart, piercing through the rowdy noise of our souls with striking efficacy: “Go find him. My work isn’t over yet. I still have plans I want to accomplish through you in his life. Go.”

Me: “No! He’s – he’s lazy! Oh, and his behavior is atrocious! He doesn’t even want to learn. You know I can’t handle one more child – and much less, teenager – who’s just begging to be kicked out. Please, no. Maybe in a year or two they can come back if their attitude changes, but right now?”

And so we go. In the last several weeks I’ve gone out into our neighborhood up long dirt paths and back alleys in our truck, in mototaxis, and sometimes on foot in search of those our Father would have us bring back. My husband Darwin has made phone calls to families and reached out to boys who I had labeled ‘beyond help.’ I’ve waded through nearly waist-high weedy overgrowth down a long abandoned path, going door-to-door looking for the home of one of our high school students who dropped out; I’ve sat on couches to pray with discouraged moms and I’ve sat on moist planks of wood in our students’ front yards seeking reconciliation and the Father’s will. We’ve moved our ‘plans’ around so as to make these search-and-rescue efforts a priority, and in the process the Lord has begun re-shaping our heart to look more like His.

All the while, our ego – that huge, nasty beast that demands ‘easy’ and ‘comfortable’ and ‘me’ – is getting pounded into the ground one blow after another by the steady rhythms of God’s love as He leads us from death into life.

And so, many of the students that I secretly hoped would leave (those who are the most difficult, the most lazy) are still here. In these past few weeks, by God’s grace and wisdom, five of the seven lost sheep from our school programs have been brought back.

And so, we are still engaged in what can only be classified as full-on spiritual warfare as we battle daily against extreme laziness, lies, immaturity, and darkness in the young people from our rural neighborhood who spend the majority of their waking hours under our guidance (not to mention the 8 who live with us as sons and daughters).

Just yesterday evening as my husband Darwin and I were alone in the kitchen finishing dinner prep for our 8 live-ins, we found ourselves once again discussing quite animatedly the ups and downs of our day, much of which is centered around the triumphs and struggles of the youth our Father has brought to us. Serving up bowls of rice, beans and tortillas, soon enough we were lamenting over the behavioral issue of so-and-so that occurred that morning or the fact that he or she cannot seem to grasp the fact that they have to do their homework, cannot just play all day and waste their lives. Darwin suddenly laughed, seemingly having received some new perspective to relieve us of what can very quickly become a discouraging conversation of wars lost and souls astray. He shook his head and said lightheartedly: “If all these kids learn in their time with us is the transforming Truth of God’s love, it’s all worth it.”

So, as far as grades go, kids are flunking out of our school left and right. But we’re keeping them around anyway. Our teenagers in second and third grade refuse to learn how many days are in a month, but we cling to the hope that in our midst the Father’s will may be done both in their lives and ours. We want to gnash our teeth and scream at the fact that over half of our 7th-graders still don’t know the multiplication tables that they should have learned early on in elementary school, but we know the Lord has a plan for them that goes beyond anything academic. The temptation is very real to expel such-and-such 13-year-old boy again (alas, we already expelled him once, but the Father led us to bring him back!) who is flunking second grade and finds it fun to scream obscenities at his poor teacher every day, but we’re seeing glimpses of light and truth – oh, how tiny yet how real they are! – infiltrating his mind and spirit, and we know the labor with him will be arduous but with the great hope of eternal rewards.

Against all logic and strategic planning, we have 14-year-old Brayan back with us in fifth grade for the third time, and – despite his absolutely terrible academic performance to this day – he is speaking and acting with a newfound maturity and joy, absorbing in a very real way the spiritual Truth being presented to him in ways that transcend any basic literacy exam or math assignment. As of late, he’s been going so far as to actively pray that God would grant him wisdom. According to Darwin’s new perspective (which I believe is actually Christ’s perspective), Brayan can repeat fifth grade ten times if he needs to, if that means that God is transforming him in the process.

Amen! Glory to the God who doesn’t give up as easily as we do!