Normally at this time on a Sunday morning I'm in the frenzy of packing a diaper bag, locating my smallest Bible to stuff in my purse, and trying to come up with outfits for myself and the kids. Curtis dresses himself most of the time.
Today, however, I am staying home with the kids. Right after Christmas Annabeth came down with yet another cold - the third or fourth in the same amount of weeks. I sort of lost count. Then she passed it to me around New Year's Eve and it knocked me out. I felt so sorry for her when I realized how horrible she must have been feeling but couldn't tell me. Now Jackson seems to have it. He woke up three times last night crying. So even though I would love to be going to my wonderful church this morning I am going to stay here and shower my little boy (don't tell him I called him little) with love and care. Annabeth is going to stay home too. The bright side is that maybe she won't get another cold this week! What she is getting is another tooth for a grand total of three.
A certain question has been running through my mind since before Christmas. What would it be like to know that you sinned but there was no way to be forgiven?
A couple of months after Annabeth was born I was trying to get back into aerobics. One evening I jumped in my Jeep with a smile on my face and a hop in my step and headed to the gym. I took a shortcut through my neighborhood, but I immediately realized I'd made the wrong decision when I saw about ten kids playing in a yard next to the street. If I'd seen them I would have taken a different route. I drove very slowly until I passed them and then I picked up speed (although I did not even reach the speed limit). All of a sudden a little dog came running down a driveway toward my car, barking all the way. I slammed on my brakes but I couldn't avoid him. To my horror, I hit the dog. A terrible chorus of ten children screaming - including those of the dog owners - filled the street. It was one of the worst moments of my life.
One of the boys who lived there went running through the front door that had accidentally been left open and got his parents. They came out and got the dog who was still alive but was writhing in pain and crying. The other little boy was in hysterics. I stood in their driveway trying to apologize and explain but no one could speak to me.
"What can I do?" I begged.
I was completely devastated. Not only had I hurt and possibly killed this dog, but I had hurt this family and traumatized all of these kids. They would be able to look down a long street and see my car - the instrument of destruction - parked in our driveway. I was convinced that we'd need to move because I would be known as the wicked witch of the neighborhood. My kids would probably be bullied and have no idea why. But I would know.
It felt like my life was over. I went to the store and bought a card. I wrote a note about how sorry I was and how I would be praying for the dog and their family. I included my phone number in case they wanted to call and yell at me or to tell me how the dog was doing. I couldn't bear to show my face there again, so Curtis took it over. I wanted him to tell them how sorry I was. They weren't home, so he left the card on their doorstep.
Later I called my friend who lives near that family. I told her what had happened. "That was you?" Word had traveled fast. She'd heard that the dog was in rough shape. I felt sick.
I know in my mind that there was nothing I could have done to avoid the dog. I wasn't speeding and I wasn't being careless. As my friend suggested, maybe the Lord would use it to teach the children to be careful around the street. Even so, my heart desperately craved forgiveness.
It never came. We never heard from the family. Thankfully, I did hear from my friend that the dog was going to make a full recovery. That was such beautiful news to my ears. We have even seen the dog being walked down our street. I've wondered if they recognize my car in the driveway. Are they still mad at me? Were they ever mad? I know it's selfish to think of my own emotional needs in a situation like that. I have chosen to release it to God and move on. Although I promise you I do not take that shortcut anymore.
Last week at Passion we heard the story of 30,000 children in Uganda who were kidnapped by a rebel army and turned into soldiers. They were forced to torture and kill others, sometimes starting with their own family members. These are the Invisible Children you may have heard about. Many of them returned to their homes upon release and found that their parents were dead.
A husband and wife named Gary and Marilyn Skinner have taken in some of these children and put them in homes with a loving mother. They found these child soldiers wandering the streets with blood on their hands. There was no one to wash it off. They had nowhere to bring their guilt. The Skinners knew better than that. They are teaching them about the hope of Jesus Christ. These boys and girls who have carried the guilt of violent bloodshed have been told the good news that Jesus can forgive them. God loves them. They can be made into new creatures and they can stand righteous before God. They can be justified and renewed.
Is there anything more glorious? Imagine that you are eight years old and you have been made to kill a little baby with a stick by some sick man standing over you. Your life feels like it is ruined forever. You feel worthless and guilty. But a Savior reaches out to you. You are rescued from guilt, condemnation and despair.
Without the birth of Christ, without His sinless life, without the horrible death He suffered on the cross, without God's wrath toward our sin that He endured, without His resurrection from the dead, we would remain in our iniquity and guilt. We would stand guilty before Almighty God with no way to be forgiven. But WITH these things there is grace, forgiveness, life, beauty, wholeness, restoration, and innocence.
Thanks be to Jesus Christ our Lord who has rescued us from our sin and guilt. He has made peace between us and the Father by His own blood. When our faith is in Jesus, we are justified in the sight of God. Instead of our sin, the Father sees Christ's righteousness.
I don't know where you're at right now. Maybe your heart is overwhelmed with guilt and shame over something in your past. Or in your present. I've been there. The Bible says that we've all sinned. No one is exempt from the corruption that is born into the human heart. The good news is that anyone can receive forgiveness through faith in Christ. You can have it right now. He delights to give it to you.
We were told that one of the head soldiers in charge of training these children to kill and destroy has given his life to Jesus.
Time and time again I am struck by how divine the story of the Gospel is. It did not originate in the human mind. No man could invent something so beautiful.