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My daughter, who is in second grade now, is the sweetest thing. She loves art, always wants to be helpful, and has a big heart. But when she gets angry, my goodness, watch out.
My first child was a boy. I say with affection that he is stubborn and loves to break things. My second child was a boy as well, so when we found out our third would be a girl, I was afraid she would get steamrolled.
That fear was most unfounded.
When she is in the middle of a fit, probably the last thing any rational person should do is reason with her. I try to, because that’s how I am, but often my wife will step in and do the saner thing.
“Boy, you must feel bad, huh?” my wife will say. “You want a hug?”
“Yes,” my daughter will mumble, wiping her tears. “Jack said I was stupid!”
“I know. That wasn’t nice, was it.”
Hugs. Tears. Talking. Then, as quickly as it started, it’s over, and she is happy again.
Why can’t I explain to my daughter in that moment that, knowing her brothers’ track records, they are the worst judges of stupidity? Why does my admonition to her to respond in healthier ways with her strong feelings not register with her?
Because what she really needs is to know we understand what she feels. She can’t put that into words at this age, but seeing how these cry fests always work out, it’s the truth. There is no reasoning her out of her feelings of being insulted and belittled. She just wants someone to understand her and stand with her.
I apologize for comparing humanity to a second grade girl, but that is all of us.
Do you really want someone coming up to you after your dad’s funeral trying to tell you, “He’s in Heaven now! You should be happy!” Hell no! You want someone to give you a hug and cry with you. You want someone to let you know they understand how hard this has to be.
That is a big part of what the incarnation is about. That was part of what God was trying to do when he left heaven and got born on Christmas Day to a poor Jewish girl. That was what he was trying to do when he died on a Cross.
In his love and care for us, God wanted to give us a hug and help us realize that he understands. He was a refugee. He was poor. He was misunderstood and hated. He knows.
An Even Great Gift
But there is more to it than that, because Jesus does not just want to identify with us in our suffering. He wants us to identify with him in his. He wants us to take our suffering and see the same meaning in it that we see in his Cross.
And what is that meaning?
Through Christ’s suffering and death came abundant fruit: his own resurrection and the salvation of the whole world.
Through our smaller crosses – the trials and tribulations we go through in life – there will be abundant fruit as well: our own salvation, our own growth into sainthood, and blessings on all those we interact with and pray for.
See in the face of Christ someone who understands you, and see in the face of Christ someone who is suffering with you.
He could tell us everything is going to be all right, but he doesn’t have to. He’s already shown us that everything will be all right in his resurrection.
The deeper we dive into that reality, the less our bitterness and resentment grips us, and the freer we become.
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