She texted me late one evening and asked if we could get together for dinner. That was odd and out of character for her . . . initiating contact. Wanting to talk. It had been a long time. Never a patient person, I asked if she wanted to talk NOW. I drove to her apartment at 11 p.m. (way past my bedtime), feeling strangely refreshed and completely at peace. I knew what was coming.
I don't think well on my feet. I am one of those who always says, after the fact, "Oh, I WISH I had said THIS." But I had rehearsed this moment over and over in my head. I knew it would come because, eventually, A + B will equal C.
She was nervous, I could tell. It took her a few minutes to get to the point. But by then I knew. It was obvious when she stood up to leave the room for a minute and I saw the swollen belly on her rail thin, 20 year-old frame. She came back and handed me a photo of a tiny creature that was adorable, even then, and strangely resembled a Gummi Bear. My daughter was pregnant.
Deep inside I have always struggled with God. The Bible says such wonderful things about him and I knew them in my head, but I just couldn't comprehend how these things applied to me. Sure, other people could receive grace, free of charge on their account, but I didn't qualify. And this stuff about God being there in suffering? That didn't matter if my suffering was a result of my own sin or my own failure or my own being just a creature rather than the Creator. I had assumed in my 30+ years of being a Christian that God stood there with his arms crossed, waiting for me to get my act together and none too happy when I fell on my face . . . again.
But that wasn't what it was like with my daughter. I didn't care that she had wandered away. I didn't care what she had done. I just wanted her to turn to me. I wanted her to know that she could trust me. I just wanted her to know that I loved her, no matter what. No matter what.
It had finally sunk in. What I wanted for my daughter was what God wanted for me. A relationship that loves lavishly and in spite of all the odds. A relationship that doesn't throw around the "I told you so" and the "I am so ashamed of you" and the "You are getting what you jolly well deserved."
My desire to come alongside my daughter and love her and help her and encourage her in her now joy-filled yet difficult role as a single mother is only a small taste of how God longs to love and help and encourage me. It is easy to forget that sometimes, what with all the "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" that get tossed around out there.
I have to remind myself over and over again, that Jesus came for the sick. He came for the lost. He came for the ones who haven't followed the rules. And he came for them, not to chastise them, but to draw them into a relationship of grace and hope. And he welcomes them, and welcomes me, with open arms. No matter what.