I have a confession to make: Sometimes, I am a spoiled brat.
Sometimes, I forget the promises that God has made. In fact, I forget that God is God. Sometimes I slip into a place of unbelief the way you can slip into a puddle of mud and suddenly lose your boot. I ease into it like you might slip into comfortable old shoes, not remembering that there are holes in the bottom that let in the rain.
I say I’m a spoiled brat because really, my life is easy, and fully blessed, and it is little things that I want — the equivalent of cheap plastic toys from China, like a business idea to flourish or a healing from an inconvenient cold — that can toss me from waves of belief to tsunamis of unbelief quicker than Kim Kardashian can break the internet.
And I can think the whole time I am being a brat, Boy, am I an asshole, but it doesn’t stop the pit of anxiety in my belly from threatening to close my throat. It doesn’t stop the lamenting, the Oh, God, where art thou’s that surely must tempt God to throw down a smiting, if God could be tempted.
(Which, according to the Bible, he apparently can, but that might only be within the parameters of his physical presence on earth, and that’s probably a whole different blog post. Or maybe a whole theology degree. The point is, though, I might want to be careful.)
And then when I read the Bible, it’s always, without fail, a love note from God, full of encouragement. Fear not, it says. Don’t give up, it exhorts. I’m still here, it shouts from the ethereal God-places.
And sometimes it reminds me that other people who actually knew Jesus — I mean, the physical-Jesus-in-the-flesh version, not the wispy-Spirit-in-the-sky version we deal with — also forgot.
Like Mary, his mother. She forgot.
She forgot the whole Hey, Mary, you are blessed among women and will, through a miraculous virgin birth — for which your husband won’t stone you, by the way — bring forth Immanuel: God. With us.
Oh — and all that came true, by the way.
We know she forgot because when he stepped into his authority, when he started acting like God, she and the rest of her family traveled 30 miles (no small feat back then) to set him straight. She wanted to get him under control. She wanted to contain the crazy. It’s like when my mother tries to mother me — now, at my ripe old age of old and decrepit, and I look at her like she’s crazy.
Don’t you roll your eyes at me, Jesus. I’m still your mother.
When I believe God has disappointed me (because really — I can get that bratty) I often whine that if only I had an angel to come and give me directions like all the lucky folk in the Bible seemed to have, THEN I would have no problem believing every. single. word. Even when things didn’t seem to be going the way they should, I could just look back at that angel visit with certainty and rock-solid belief, and my anxiety would be washed away.
Or maybe if God had a cell phone, and with coverage unlike T-Mobile’s, that, you know, actually works throughout all the heavens, I could place a call. Heck, I’d be happy with even just a text of fortification: Fear not. U r going 2 b fine. 4 I am with u always. 🙂 <3
Or if God could just Facebook message me a happy little meme, maybe with furry kittens and an orangutan giving me the thumbs up, I’d remember and be just fine.
Or a zip line! Jesus could zip line down for a quickie Neuro-Linguistic Programming Session, so I’ll never again doubt his presence and power in my life, and all will be fine. Who needs Tony Robbins?
But of course, that isn’t what happens. So I am buffeted by the winds of unbelief and I give into them like a tattered flag.
But Mary forgot, too.
Like me, when God’s way did not fit her idea of The Way It’s Supposed To Be, she acted on her disbelief. She strode down to Capernaum with her posse in tow and she was going to set some stuff straight. She was going to make this right. She was going to insist on her human way. She was going to capitalize on her rights as a family member, on her authority as his parent.
And in response, it almost seems like Jesus disowns her. Which really kind of sucks.
Of course, I doubt that’s what happened. I think Jesus used the opportunity to make a point, and I think eventually, at some point, he went out and reassured his mom that he was fine. I can’t imagine Jesus being a jerky son who would let his poor mom continue to think he was insane. At some point, he must have gone out and said, “Mom, I got this, okay? I’m fine. I’m thirty. You’ve got to start trusting me at some point.”
Given that 30 is my cut off for my kids’ adventures — like the age where it’s okay for them to start dating, and driving, and drinking soda — this seems reasonable to me.
I’m glad Mary forgot. I’m glad because it makes me feel like a little less of an asshole. It makes me realize that even though she saw an angel, and witnessed miracle after miracle, when God started to — according to her standards — misbehave, she started doubting, too.
It makes me feel better because it reminds me again that God’s ways are not always our ways. That he has thoughts and behaviors and things that are eternally new to us. That if I’m not slightly befuddled, I’m probably not paying enough attention.
I suppose I could demand to know why it has to be like this, for as far as that would get me. And I don’t know. I don’t know why, in the grand schemes of the universes, God’s law seems to require our free will for him to be happy and content. And that this free will means we often lose sight of those things that matter, like the faith that seems so easy to lose, like that miracles seem to have a shelf life, like the way our hearts need to break a little bit each day so he can lovingly sew them back together.
But maybe it’s so each day, every time our faith slips a little bit, we can experience the way God’s hand feels when it comes up beneath us to cushion our fall. Maybe it’s so each day, we can recognize a new form of bratty that might be mangling our insides, and reach out for our healer to get us right again.
Maybe it’s that continual cry for mercy that will remind us to be merciful; the constant need for forgiveness that reminds us to forgive. Maybe it’s actually for the best.
I’d still think it’d be easier — an orangutan, a zip line, a text from heaven.
But if this is the way God wants it to be, I’ll just try to do better.
And then I’ll rest in the beautiful reality that in fact, I don’t have to do better.