When Grace and Goodness Hurt Us
During this “in between” season of my life, I take care of a nine month old little girl. She loves music, avocados, venison, and the swing in the back yard. She gets mad when there are people in the room who aren’t looking at her, and feels betrayed if you try to feed her normal baby food.
I call her Peaches. I really can’t remember where that came from, but I’ve called her that since the beginning and I suppose it’s better than Tater Tot or Munchkin or Gum Drop. (I blame my southern roots for all the food related nick names.)
Usually the mornings are filled with giggles and couch cuddles and jingle bell toys and one last snack before her nap.
But not today.
This morning, she absolutely broke my heart. I can’t remember ever seeing someone in so much pain. Nap time came and went. She was exhausted, but couldn’t get comfortable enough to fall asleep. I watched her face contort in uncomfortable sobs as her cheeks seemed to become permanently tear stained. You could see the little vein in her forehead bulge as she cried.
And I felt helpless.
Her dad- a dad who would move mountains and pass through hell or high water for her- came home and gave her the medicine she so desperately needed.
He knew the medicine would make her even more upset. It would sting and burn and increase her discomfort, but 20 minutes later it would kick in and all her pain would be alleviated. She would be able to sleep peacefully and play comfortably.
But how do you explain that to a nine month old? How do you tell a baby that her strong and kind and loving and much wiser father, motivated by his fierce love for her, gave her this thing that hurts worse than before?
You can’t. So he held her close as she screamed angry, agonized screams and rocked her as her tears flowed fast and freely. He knew what she is far too young to understand- what he just did is the most loving thing he possibly could have done for his little girl. He knew the medicine would work in 20 short minutes, even though the Little Peach could never have understood that.
So I sat back and watched. I watched as a father cared for his daughter in a way she didn’t want and didn’t understand but oh so desperately needed.
I think that is how God loves us. A God who created parakeets and pollen and phytoplankton, geysers and gorillas and gemstones-clearly is going to understand our soul’s deepest needs better than we ever could. Sometimes, like Peaches, we don’t recognize why we are hurting. We only notice the painful symptoms that make us cry and lay awake uncomfortably. But how could we know the real reason? He is Creator, Conquering King, Savior. And we are his dearly loved Children.
It reminds me of pruning- cutting and clipping off the old to make room for new growth and new life. The pruning process is never without pain, but He does it because it is what is best for us. He is a good, good father, and he gives us what we need, even when it hurts us in the moment.
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
He sees the root cause of our heartache, the thing that is keeping us from producing fruit and abiding in our Risen Savior. Motivated by His fierce love for us, He prunes.
I suppose that process looks different every time. Sometimes he gives us something we need but don’t want in the moment because it hurts and we think our finite minds know best. Sometimes he takes something away that we have fought to keep firmly in our grasp.
Looking back on the past few years of my life, I can see how closed doors, missed opportunities, and broken hearts lead to beauty and abundance. What was the end of MY plans and felt like the end of the world turned out to be an incredibly gracious beginning, and opened the door to the thing I had always yearned for. What he does he does because he loves us. He wants us to abide in him, and produce fruit indicative of the abundant life He wants us to lead in Him.
The Little Peach is sleeping peacefully now- going on three hours, which makes sense because she missed her morning nap, poor thing. I’m watching her on the monitor as I write this. Her father-a broken, fallen, human father, knew what was best for her this morning. How much better must our Heavenly Father know what is best for us?
Thank God for grace.