My two rowdy boys were outside playing after school with their friends, our neighbors. A fence divides our property from theirs. Johnny was running from our side of the fence (the grassy side) while Gabe was running from our neighbor’s (the driveway side). Not seeing the other one coming they crashed head-on at full speed, each thrown to the ground by the force of the impact. Gabe’s grinding asphalt landing was grittier than Johnny’s grass cushioned fall. Both of Gabe’s knees, his arm, shoulder, and chest took a bloody beating. He jumped up and raced home, adrenaline pumping, face and lips a gray-white ashen pallor, feeling nauseous and close to passing out. Johnny followed, slowly limping behind, helped by his friend, chest aching, unable to clearly speak with the wind knocked out of him. He managed to squeak through tears, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt him. It was an accident. I’m so sorry. It was my fault.”
Gabe forgave Johnny immediately. “Johnny, it wasn’t your fault. We were both running. Like you said, it was an accident.”
The next morning at breakfast Gabe, terribly stiff and sore, with bandages covering leaky, oozing, gooey wounds, brightly piped up, “Hey Johnny, I’m glad I was on the driveway side. I’m glad it wasn’t you!” Our ever-competitive, spunky youngest responded, “What, you’re saying you’re tougher than me?” Gabe gently replied, “No, I’m just older than you and can handle the pain better. I’m glad to take this so you don’t have to.”
I am always blown away when I see Jesus in my sons. And I am always amazed when love and joy are extracted from pain and suffering.
Jesus left the comfort and security of His heavenly home, becoming one of us to become one with us. He took on flesh to be torn apart so we would never have to be apart from Him. He became the sin and darkness He so despised so we could become the glory and light in His Father’s eyes. He emptied Himself, He gave His all, He poured out His love–and it was His call. He wasn’t coerced; He was willing to die. He chose suffering–to be the least, the last, the lowliest–and He told us why.
“I’m glad to take this so you don’t have to.”
Love is a costly choice. It did not come from a posh store and it is not wrapped in glitter and gold, perfectly packaged under a six-foot spruce. It came from a poor stable, wrapped in rags, birthed through tears and pain under a starlit, not so silent night. It is not easy, comfortable, self-preserving, or safe. It is hard, disturbing, sacrificial, and risky. It is peace past calm, joy beyond happiness. Its reward is not recognition, fame, or fortune. Its reward is itself. It is not an it. It is a Him. He is Jesus. Immanuel. God with us.
And He is Love.