I have a friend whose great-niece recently gave birth to her second child. A wonderful addition to the family who’s been named Luke. He has an older sister who’s 2 ½ named Maddy Grace – how cute is that??? So Maddy Grace is a pistol – cuter than a bug and a personality as big as an ocean. As I am wont to say, she will cut a rather wide swath through this field called life.
So Maddy Grace has been an only child for 30 months, and as any of us might imagine, there are perks to that, most particularly in the way of attention and focus. For a large personality, attention and focus are great things. But then came Luke. Mom and Dad prepared her for his coming as much as you can process with a 2 ½ year old and she was as excited as she could be with what she could understand about a new baby. And then he came home. New babies don’t do a lot in the beginning, other than take a lot of attention plus the whole mama-holding and nursing and trying to survive. Grandma and Dad were there for Maddy Grace to ask questions and go swimming and do all kinds of fun stuff. But Luke is still there, just hanging out, eating, sleeping, burping, needing changed, crying, needing attention, and not really playing or living with much purpose, especially from a 2 ½ year old perspective.
Maddy Grace went back to preschool after everything got settled and the regular routine started up again. Her preschool teacher asked her about the new baby in her house and how exciting it was and what it must be like, to which Maddy Grace nodded and then said, “You want to take him home???” *BIG SNORTS!* Is that so perfect?!? And you know why that’s so perfect?!? Because we relate!!! At some level we’re all still about 2 ½ sometimes – the best age and the worst age, and the cutest age, and the most challenging age, and the most self-focused age, and the most honest age, and when you add a baby brother to all that, it’s probably not that strange that you want to give him away and have life go back to the way it was.
Aren’t there just sermons EVERYWHERE??? Maybe not a difficult analogy to think about what Herod, and the Scribes and Pharisees, and probably Jesus’ own family thought a time or two after Jesus was born. There Jesus is, less than two years old, and you’re having to flee to a foreign country because his life is in danger. Can’t life simply go back to the way it was before he came onto the scene? Before he started talking about “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” and the scripture he referred to had to do with good news for the poor, healing for the sick, and liberating the oppressed. Why couldn’t he have been born and just tried to fit in with the way things were, with how things had always been done, with that which everyone who was anyone in the world had grown accustomed? Why did he seem to have this need to turn the world upside down and sideways?
Maddy Grace didn’t ask for Luke. The news was just thrust upon her, like the world didn’t actually revolve around her. What’s the deal with that? Mary and Joseph didn’t really ask to be the parents of Jesus, the news just got thrust upon them, like the world didn’t actually revolve around them. The religious system of the day of Jewish law and covenant didn’t really ask to be changed, the good news of Jesus just got thrust upon it, like God’s world didn’t actually revolve around their faithfully established doctrine that had been in place since the time of Moses. So… sometimes I think we say the same thing about following Jesus that Maddy Grace in essence said to her preschool teacher: yeah, he’s great and everything, but would you please take him?
When Jesus takes root in our lives, not simply in claiming the name Christian, but authentically takes root in our lives, it changes our world. If we’re living with and in him, it causes us to question our choices in how we use our time, our money, how we treat those around us including our family and friends and moving to our neighbors both here and across the globe. Life in Jesus asks us to question whether we live as if we are God’s only children, because there are certainly perks to that.
The world revolves around us in both attention and focus. We aren’t challenged to share either understanding or resources, we aren’t asked to put ourselves in a brother or sister’s shoes when we don’t choose to acknowledge that we have any other brothers and sisters.
But then Luke came home – yeah, he’s great and everything, at least that’s what I’ve been told; but seriously, do you want him, because he changes EVERYTHING. And actually that everything includes not realizing what you didn’t have, because… he also begins to grow on you, sorta without you even knowing it. Sometimes you’re holding him and he smiles at you and everything else in the world stops. And you don’t know why, but something in your heart happens that may never have happened before, like a package being unwrapped that you didn’t really understand you were getting until it came. Even when you received it, you weren’t sure you wanted it, but then you opened it and well, it begins to change EVERYTHING.
How sweet is that video?!? I suggested to the great-great-aunt that they need to archive that for when those children are 16 and 13 and the parents are certain none of them are going to live through those years of development and hormones and relationships and simply the roller coaster ride that is the teen years among siblings.
Will Maddy Grace grow up? Absolutely. Will she love and hate being a big sister for many years to come? Absolutely. Will she believe her little brother is the biggest pain in her life and also stand in front of any bully or antagonist that might hurt him? Absolutely. And will one day in their adult lives, they look back on all the bumps and bruises and ups and downs and happys and sads and be glad they have one another? I want to say absolutely, but sometimes it does not. Sometimes the hard stuff happens and we retreat back to our 2 ½ year old selves and we decide to pretend we were born only children with the perks being attention, focus, and not having to work toward forgiving grace because it might cause our worlds to turn upside down and sideways, and we’d rather simply leave our worlds exactly the way they are, maybe sort of revolving around us, and never having anything thrust upon us that causes us to change.
When my friend Jayne was living her last months of ALS and we were talking about end things and she was asking about how to make those decisions around treatment and eating and not eating and staying engaged and no longer engaging, I told her that if it were up to me, she would keep doing everything possible to stay alive as long as possible because that’s what I wanted and that just in case she was wondering, this whole thing was . . . all about ME!!! And we laughed ourselves silly, and we laughed ‘til we cried and we cried and cried and cried. Sometimes even the best gifts in life, even eternal healing, and the changes that come with it, are just painful and hard and cause laughing tears and crying tears which all are really sacred tears.
Maddy Grace and Luke will make their way in this life. She may try to give him away several more times before everything is said and done. And when everything is said and done, I’m certain she’ll realize that without him, her world would not have been the same. Perhaps for Maddy, and for us, that is grace.