As my kids get older, I find myself losing more patience (or is that hair?). While I try to be calm most of the time, and try to see the humour in some of the illogical nonsense that my kids get into, I find myself every now and then losing my temper. And while I feel really bad and most other parents that I talk to say that it is ok and even necessary to sometimes lose it on them, nothing really hurts more than my kids looking at me with all this sadness and guilt in their eyes and mentally saying “you’re so mean”. I say “mentally,” because they don’t actually say it out loud, but I’m dang sure they’re saying in their heads.
And as much as I tell them that I’m not trying to be mean or think their pain is funny (not every time, at least), I don’t think they get it. And they probably won’t get it until they’re older and maybe have kids of their own. The thing that I want them to know is that their actions have consequences, and while I don’t always dish out those consequences, I often warn them about them so they can avoid them.
So that means no jumping on the bed because they might fall and bump their head. That means no screaming or they won’t get their ice cream. And sometimes that means no falling off walls or they might not be able to be put together again.
But it isn’t to be mean, it is just me telling them that this is something that could or would happen if they aren’t careful. I am warning them of what I have seen happen to myself or others, and I am trying to protect them with the knowledge that I have that they don’t yet have. Can they still get hurt? Absolutely. Can they still trip and fall? Probably. Can they still mess up and ruin their lives? At this point I am almost counting on it. But I still want to be able to protect them and keep them safe, and above all I will still love them regardless.
And I know, a kid won’t learn a hot stove is hot until they touch it. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to make them touch hot stoves until they learn their lesson. That would be mean.
This parable of the sheep and goats always bothered me, because it makes God seem mean. Drawing a line between who is in and who is out doesn’t sound inclusive to me at all, in fact it is pretty exclusive. I always thought that God is a welcoming God and loves without condition, but a story like this makes me question all of that because it sounds like the exact opposite is true instead.
But then I grew up and had kids. And then I see what this is all about. It isn’t about God punishing us for being bad people, but it is God telling and warning us about what could or would happen if we live in ways that God doesn’t recommend. God has given us guidelines on how to live, how to treat each other, and how to regard ourselves. It is up to us if we want to listen or not.
If we do, then cool, we will see more what life has to offer. If we don’t, then well… life might be harder. But make no mistake about it, it isn’t God punishing us or being mean as much as it is us just bringing certain things onto ourselves.
This isn’t to say that if we were to live an upstanding life that we won’t have any problems or our luck will change or God will give us everything we want (new Ferrari, anyone?), but it is to say that if we treat others poorly, act selfishly, and just be an all around bad person, then we might not have as many friends as we would like. People might treat us poorly in return. We might go down in history as the person that is best left forgotten. That is a kind of infamy that I can do without.
So God isn’t being mean, per se. Rather God sees what life can do to us, and how we might be able to live life fuller and richer if we heed to the advice we find in scripture. Again, this doesn’t mean that we’ll be free of problems, but it could mean that our approach to problems will be different, and we might be able to bounce back quicker than not. And above all, God will love us regardless.
Have a great week, everyone!