We always bake cookies this time of year. It's crazy messy, dirty and lots of work...but the kids love it and are able to relish in the baking without a single thought to the cleanup. So we bake and clean and eat too much sugar.
This year, we wrapped up some cookies for a few of our neighbors. I mentioned to the girls that our next door neighbors worship a different God than we do...that it would be a good witness to give them some cookies.
My five-year-old daughter...the one who hits her sister but cries about the orphans...the one who asked that I please stop talking to her about Africa because it's too sad...the child who requested that we all fly to China to hand out Bibles. That child. She states the obvious. "Then we should give them a Bible."
I cringe inward...just a little...and her sister pipes in and agrees wholeheartedly. "Yes! What a great idea!"
I am no religion scholar. I know a lot about what God is teaching me...but not very much about the ins and outs of the Godless religions that mislead His creation. Will they be offended? Maybe they'll be upset with us? Isn't this a little pushy?
I end up at Wal-Mart that week and decide to stroll through the books. Maybe I should buy a book...a Bible is a little much...maybe a good Max Lucado book about the Savior.
I become frustrated with myself and wonder why in the world I am hesitant to give someone an unsolicited Bible? I know the transformative power of these words. I understand the love story contained. Why the uncertainty?
Because I know the world hates the Bible. I know Jesus is hated because He is love. He is hated because He is just. He is hated because He is radical.
The world hates Him for the same reasons I love Him.
I buy the Bible and bring it home.
The girls painstakingly wrap their gift, full of excitement and anticipation.
I get one of our Christmas cards and, at the advice of my knitting mentor...a beloved woman and lover of Christ, I write a note.
We wrap a bow around it and the cookies and leave it on their front porch.
The next day, the neighbor marches over and hands me this:
"Thank you for the cookies...but we cannot accept your Bible. We are Hindu and cannot accept this gift."
Dumbfounded, I mumble something that might resemble an apology and close the door. The girls ask who was at the door...I (again) mumble something to the effect of, "It was the neighbor thanking us for the cookies..."
I still haven't told them.
As this plagued me, I found it was tempting to shake my head, and mutter, "What do you expect from the world?" But I couldn't go there. What I'm learning...through this journey called motherhood...is that the lesson I think someone else should be learning is usually mine.
Then, it happened. The Lord...never willing to let me perish in the bowels of self-contemplation, revealed a truth and put me in my place hours later.
I was filing up a sippy cup tonight for about the...I don't know...10,000th time over the last 7 years? And I muttered, "Lord, I'm really tired of filling up sippy cups."
And just like that, the image of the Bible amidst torn up paper flashes bright.
My complaints over the years tumble forth and the truth paralyzes me.
"I'm tired of never sleeping all night. I'm tired of cooking meals. I'm tired of teaching math. I'm tired of being touched all day. I'm tired of holding children. I'm tired of finding shoes...zipping coats...sacrificing...self-denying...loving unconditionally...serving...fighting for my kids' hearts...
Why don't I just say what I really mean?
This gift, Lord? The one you've given me to become more like you? This holy life of sacrifice You've given to me to live? I don't want it...you see, my religion is self and I cannot accept this gift of becoming more like You every day. It's offensive to my god...she trembles beneath all of this and is waning away. This life I live...daily sacrificing all...it's killing her.
The Lord smiles. "Exactly."
To sacrifice daily...self-deny completely...love unconditionally...hug freely...fill sippy cups endlessly...it kills self. And isn't that our goal?
His gifts are sometimes (usually?) wrapped up differently than we might expect. A Savior in a trough...a King at the thief's table...a Redeemer on a cross...the Murdered among the living.
This gift? This one He's given us? It's Life wrapped up in a whole lot of giving. The peace for which we long...the Christ-likeness we strive so hard to achieve...it's buried deep in the trenches of self-sacrifice. In the well of motherhood, there is Living Water.
We can refuse His gift. We can lament, complain, dig in our heels and renounce it. Or we can abandon our lifeless god and dive deep into the mire...into the well...wade in the trenches of self-denial and give thanks all the while. Then...and only then...will we, mothers on a path toward holiness, be set free.