When Darkness Presses In, Jesus Loves

Sunset - bridgeThe serpent comes to the woman in the garden, the ancient myth goes, and whispers in her ear.

“Did God really say …?” and then, “For God knows you will become like Him …”

She listens, falls prey to the deception that filters down to her children, that’s held us captive for all these millenia. She hears the liar’s words, and the questions they imply lodge themselves deep into the very root of what it is to be human: Can God be trusted? Does He have my best interests at heart? Am I really, truly loved?

We cry out collectively, and so much of our pain, so much of our hurt, so much of our brokenness stems from the emptiness we feel when the universe turns a blind eye to our sorrows, when the void echoes our questions back to us, telling us that we are alone, that we are insignificant, that we are unloved.

For this is the truth I see in myself: I am at my ugliest when I am feeling the most insecure, when the broken places within me are at their worst, allowing the hate, the pride, the selfishness to seep in.

The news these days is almost too much to bear, too much to comprehend. Suicide bombings and war-shattered countries and yet another mass shooting, another young man with guns blazing, mowing down others in response to his own twisted brokenness. People slaughtered, lives destroyed, and hate, so much hate. It reaches a point of saturation, of numbness; the heart and mind can only absorb so much ugliness before they begin to shut down, before the shock and horror of such acts begin to diminish – which is, in itself, its own kind of horror.

What emptiness resides in the heart of man, what depraved deformity, that turns fellow human beings to targets, that releases itself in fury and blood and mayhem? What solution can there be, what antidote to the darkness that plagues us?

Katie sings to the Cabbage Patch doll she inherited from me. She places “Baby” in her lap, tucking a blanket around her with care, then opens The Jesus Storybook Bible and rocks, her entire body swaying from side to side. “Jesus loves. Jesus loves,” she sings, over and over again, and, though the logical side of my brain says she’s only imitating what we’ve shown her, it’s enough to melt this mama’s heart into a pile of gooey mush.

I related this story to our bible study the other day, played the sound clip I’d recorded, and one of the men responded with, “Well, that’s about all you need to know about theology, right there.”

As much as she can understand such things at the tender age of two (and who am I to say? Perhaps she has a better grasp of things than I do), my girl gets it, gets the fundamental base of everything else, the central fact on which everything else hangs: Jesus loves.

(I believe, Lord. Help thou my unbelief!)

Jesus loves. He does. He loves those who suffer, those who hurt, those who are wounded. He loves the ones who have been victims of violence, of sexual assault, of unspeakable crimes – and he loves the perpetrators of those crimes. He loves prostitutes and congressmen and pastors, lawyers and doctors and garbage collectors, teachers and artists and scientists. He loves the Syrians fleeing their homes and the members of ISIS and those who are for and those who are against accepting more refugees. He loves four-year-old boys and moms who lose track of them and all the voices that condemn her for it. He loves President Obama and Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. He loves the woman who wrote a brave letter and he loves the young man who assaulted her behind a dumpster. He loves the man who walked into a nightclub with guns and he loves the forty-nine patrons who died on that night. Jesus loves.

And, remarkably, He loves me, even me.

In recent weeks, I’ve started adapting a popular children’s song, substituting Katie’s name for the word “children” to yield: “Jesus loves the little Katies, all the Katies of the world.” The first time I did so, she laughed against me, delight radiating across her face. “More, Mama, more,” she asked, loving that this song was about her, that Jesus loves her, specifically her.

It’s become a favorite, now, one I sing multiple times a day. She requests it often. She’ll look up with me with those deep dark eyes of hers and ask, “Jesus loves Katie?”

She also knows the name we’ve chosen for her yet-to-be-born little sister – Abigail Grace – and will often talk about her, telling me that Abby is “hiding inside Mommy” or that she’s sad and needs a hug.

Which brings me to another heart-melting habit of my two-year-old for you: When I sing “Jesus loves the little Katies,” I can’t finish the first few lines before she’s asking, “Abby, too?” And so I will sing it again, this time with her sister’s name. She’ll smile and nestle close, assured that all is right in her world.

And this is where truth comes, isn’t it? From the mouths of babes? For the security she feels in knowing she’s loved – by Jesus and by her parents – provides her the space and the ability to love others, too.

Jesus loves. It sounds simple, naïve, childish to think such a statement might be the answer when we are surrounded by so much evil, so much darkness, when the hold of hate is so strong. I’m no idealist. I know there will always be those broken individuals, those warped and hurting and hateful people who perpetuate violence and wickedness in this world, that the ugliness will continue until Christ comes to make all things new.

And yet, I wonder – if we understood how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, if we built our lives upon it, if we saw ourselves and those around us in its light – how would the world be different? How would we live if we basked in that knowledge? How would we treat ourselves? How would we treat others?

Jesus loves. All we need to know, indeed.

And so I will fight evil in my own small way, by striving to believe the truth of this love, by attempting to live in it. And by teaching it to my children, by showing them a better way, by praying they will know this love and live it out so much better than their mama does.

“Jesus loves Katie?”

Yes, sweet girl, He does. So much.

“Abby, too?”

Abby too, love. Abby too.

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