by Mike McAuliff
I’ve got a pocket full of one-liners and among those my family hear on the regular is, “with blessings come complications”. It’s a truism that shows up in work, in ministry, and in the family. The blessings of a job bring the complications of workload and ethics. The blessing of living and serving in a church community bring the complications of interpersonal dynamics and dealing with brokenness. The blessings of family and children bring the complications of disciplining kids and equipping them to know and love God.
It also brings the complication of things I couldn’t have fathomed in the years before fathering two girls. You know. Things like being stabbed by Legos in the middle of the night or realizing we can’t have light-colored furniture anymore because … Cheetos. Like any dad, I wouldn’t trade the complications — big or small— for anything in the world. I love these daughters and pray there’s never a day they don’t know and love the name of Jesus. But I’d be lying if I didn’t add that I also pray for them to have REALLY boring testimonies. Honestly. I don’t want them to have epic struggles or addictions to overcome, I want them to have calm and boring lives in Christ.
Of course what is true is that I am not my kids’ savior and I can’t protect them from harm or trials. My wife and I have walked through a difficult season with our girls this year; one that has reminded us that we cannot rescue our kids from the difficulty of life. We’ve been reminded on the flip side of these complications what a blessing it is to know that a truer and better Father loves and cares for them. The birth certificate may assert that a child is legally yours, but they belong first and foremost to the God who dreamed them up and knit them together.
Does their belongingness to God mean we abdicate our roles? By no means. We are the stewards and the hands and feet of Jesus to love and nurture the children he entrusts to us. But the bigger picture of God’s hand over our children is a blessing.
Consider one father in the scripture – Jairus.
In Mark 5:21-42, we Jairus, a prominent figure in the community and father of a very sick little girl. He falls at Jesus’ feet and pleads with Jesus to come because Jairus’ daughter is dying. He begs that Jesus would come and lay hands on the girl, so that she would be healed. To Jairus’ relief, Jesus comes with him. Time is of the essence here and, as parents, we can feel the urgency. If a life hangs in the balance, we expect God would respond immediately. But look what happens while they are on their way: a woman who has been suffering for twelve years, bleeding constantly, seeks out Jesus and reaches for his robes. She interrupts this mission. As she touches his robes, Jesus knows that power had gone out from him and he stops to seek out the woman who’d been healed. He stops!
Do you see it? The agony of this delay?
In the middle of a great and urgent mission to heal Jairus’ daughter, Jesus stops. If you were Jairus, what would your reaction be? “Are you kidding me, Jesus? This woman is bleeding – this is not a life-threatening issue — but my daughter is DYING.” If Jesus was a doctor, he’d be sued for malpractice. But Jesus would not be hurried. And as Jesus is still talking with the woman who was healed, Jairus receives word that his daughter has died.
Can you imagine what Jairus thinks of Jesus now? What are you thinking when you hear Jesus’ response? I knew it. I knew You couldn’t do it. I give my child to Jesus and this is what happens.
How does Jesus respond? TRUST ME. I’m still coming.
You may know the story: Jesus returns to Jairus’ house, greets the mourners with a stunning, hope-filled rebuke (“She is only sleeping!”) and then speaks gently to the little girl, bringing her back to life. Jairus went to Jesus for a healing and instead, he got a resurrection!
Of course, this is not a proof text that Jesus always heals or resurrects. We know this isn’t a formula, but an expression of his compassion and power in the lives of our children. This story is a reminder that God is infinitely more concerned for our children than we are, that he meets us in our grief, that his kindness corrects us, and that he himself is the hope and rescue our children need. Whatever the complication of the circumstance or heartache or trial, the promise of Jesus’ presence is the blessing we get to embrace.
This past year, there were so many days I was frustrated, angry, and wished that we could go back to “normal” (whatever normal is). But I wouldn’t change this story, because in the middle of our circumstances, God has been faithful and he has revealed to us that (in one of my daughter’s words) she is “grasping the gospel now” because of this circumstance.
There’s nothing I can do or my wife can do or will to change a heartache or fix something broken and hurtful for our girls. So when we see in this story of Jairus that God is the only one who can change the narrative, who do something about it — we can be ENCOURAGED in the presence and provision of God over our kids. We still love and equip and walk with our kids, but we trust the saving to Jesus.
The same Savior who saved us can save our kids and this is the hope we walk in.