Martha Jane has this endearing and simultaneously perplexing response to being disciplined…she immediately reaches out for an embrace and buries her face in my neck. I faintly remember Chad doing something similar and have been wondering at what point he stopped and how I contributed to the change. The child’s desire to please and be intimate with the parent is overwhelming, making reconciliation a top priority at the first sign of division. There must also be an assumption that affection and harmony are desired from the parent for the child to run so quickly after it. Somewhere along the way, I think two things diminish this beautiful response to conflict: 1) a desire to please self more than anyone else and 2) uncertainty that the relationship is cherished and full of the treasure that once held it above all else.
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Gen. 3:4-5
When cynicism and distrust slip into my heart, I can easily twist the motives of others and pull back into myself, into a self-protective mode. There is a sadness and a bitterness in that place of self-survival because it assumes antagonism and self-interest from those around me, pushing me further into isolation with my fist clinched and jaw clenched. I become my central focus, my own care and development my primary interest.
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Gen. 2:18
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt. Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful. Jer. 31:3-4
At age 2, Martha Jane knows she is dependent upon me for food, protection and even entertainment. So far, I have confirmed her assumptions and provided for her needs and even, sometimes, heaped more than just the basics into her days with swimming, dancing, playing and tickling. Right now, the sting of division is a terrible wound to her, unsettling until we snuggle afterward and she hears me tell her “I love you.” Right now, I want what she has…a greater interest in harmony, unity, affection and reconciliation than in self-promotion and general self-centeredness. That darn old default mode passed along since Adam and Eve pulls so intensely when conflict arises that for now the urge to be right, to sulk in my corner, to keep my arms crossed and my face scowling just to keep punishing her (or others) for their wounds against me too often handicaps me from moving toward the other person in humility, love, forgiveness and restoration.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Is. 53:5
Because I can’t move forward, because I won’t take the wounds of punishment which bring healing and restoration, Jesus has. Because He has done the work of reconciliation, I can throw my arms in the air for a hug just like Martha Jane, burying my face in the neck of my adversary or of my judge. He is just and the One who justifies so that I can walk in grace toward others, loving as generously and unreasonably as He has loved me. Though I cannot make myself more like Martha Jane in my response to conflict, He will complete the good work that He has begun, and she provides a picture of where that good is heading. When I am freed from the need to look out for #1, consider myself first, I am simultaneously freed to image God as He originally intended…looking out for the rest of His creation and seeking its peace and prosperity. What Good News!
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Cor. 5:18-19