Her words had me pinned against the pantry door in the kitchen. She screamed and called me bipolar and a brat, and then in a high-pitch shriek said that she never speaks to me because she does not want a relationship with us and that she's counting down the days until she leaves. There was more, but I couldn't make it out between her sobs and my shock.
It hasn't been an easy road with this little one. I understand the distancing. It's a defense mechanism and I don't blame her for it. She's traveled this road before.
And usually when I'm invited to the gun fight, the power struggle, when the anger comes out and is vomited all over me, stinging my nostrils and putting pressure behind my eyes... usually when I'm invited to the fight, I don't show up. I deflect. I leave. I send the Pastor Husband.
But I showed up at the gun fight this time, letting her words sting deep. I know her words are a product of her past. The trauma of living in foster care, of being forgotten yet feared at the same time, so the grief festers into anger and then becomes an angry burr if it isn't recognized and removed and replaced with the Spirit that brings peace, love, gentleness, kindness, and self-control.
But I was so angry, so hurt at the ungratefulness of it all. How dare she not appreciate all I've done for her. The freaking nerve of this child.
And her burr becomes a bullet and the bullseye is whomever happens to be in the wrong room at the wrong time. In this case, it was the fed-up foster mom who cared about creating a chore chart more than a child's heart.
The burr in me comes out, too. And my bullet scars the one who is already terribly marred. All because two broken people accepted an invitation to the same gun fight. No one is innocent when no one unloads the bullets.
But I persevere because:
In order to know God more, I need to be obedient to what I already know.
In order to truly love God, I must have agape, sacrificial love for His children.
In order to hear "Well done my good and faithful servant," I must do well. Living for myself and my comforts won't cut it in the Kingdom. Die to self and find life. Keep my eyes on Jesus and walk on water. I've walked on water this year, friends.
You and I strive to live beyond our salvation.
Sure, my salvation is secure whether I foster or not, but my goal is not just salvation. That's the baseline for a relationship with Christ. I want to live the full eternal life now, experience the blessings now, add the Kingdom value now. And that comes when we get our hands dirty in the work of the Father, even if it means our hearts and pride get hurt and our feelings are bruised by a 15 year old. One day I will look back at this and see it as a defining period and refining period. One day. Not today.
And the morning after I accepted the invite to the gun fight, with my eyes still tired and red and shoulders still slumped I showed up at Community Bible Study. I sat in a church gymnasium, Bible open and heavy in my lap learning about how Jesus reacted when he was invited to a gun fight.
And the stark contrast of Jesus's response to the gun fight and my own response to the gun fight makes the shame of my sin sting deep.
And we read that after Jesus ate his last meal with his friends, after they sang their last hymn together and walked out to the garden of Gethsemane, after Jesus was in so much distress over what was to come that He sweat blood and an angel was sent to comfort Him, after He was arrested and spent the night at the hands of the religious leaders being beaten...
John 18:19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”
We absolutely know what He says. We are not lazy worshippers; the Word's open and it guides us. Surely we know what He says.
When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.
Invitation to the gun fight extended.
“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”
After He was taken to Pilate's house at the hands of the religious leaders to be crucified, He sat. The one who is King of the world became the accused criminal and awaited His own trial by the very ones He created.
And He was invited to the gun fight, but didn't show up.
By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. They loved their religious rules and doing the religious things. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”
Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Your own people turned you in, Jesus.
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
Our God is not defensive because He's not fragile. This is what it looks like to be on the side of Truth.
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate as he stormed off, not caring to hear an answer.
We all must decide what we will do with Truth.
And the embodiment of Truth was invited to a fight with the Jewish leaders and Pilate, but He leaves His gun in its holster.
I'm so convicted. When I'm on the side of truth, my voice doesn't need to raise.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.
Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”
As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”
Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” The religious. The ones who love the rules and operate from a place of insecurity because there is a new Rabbi in town.
From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” And if you oppose Ceasar, it's you on the cross. Pilate knew this.
When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha).
“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
And in this church gymnasium my nostrils are stinging and there's a burning coal in my throat and pressure behind my eyes as I see the greatest model for how to respond when invited to a gun fight. The One Who is Ancient of Days does not need to respond to the one whose days He Himself has numbered. And I think of the previous night, how angry I was, how tight the pit in my stomach got as I was screamed at. How prideful I was as I thought myself too saintly to be martyred by ingratitude.
And through this, we see four reasons why Jesus doesn't show up to a gun fight:
- He could have put an end to it all right there, but He didn't. His agape love was too strong, because He is the definition of agape love. If we are truly agape-loving the people around us, we don't pick up our weapons.
- What a beautiful reminder; we serve an unshakable God who is not defensive or fragile. We don't need to be either.
- Our God doesn't need to show up at the gun fights because there's an epic battle of good and evil raging across the universe. A battle for love and truth and grace and mercy. The person in front of us is not the enemy. They are a victim of the Enemy.
- The Reconciler and Redeemer wins our battles in the end, though sometimes not on this side of heaven. They are His battles anyway. It was my own deep rooted, ugly, self-focused sin that looked for appreciation, when I asked myself how dare she not appreciate all I've done for her. If my eyes had been on the cross, I would have figured out a way to love her better.