Part 3 – Revelations
John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
The term “Mama Bear” has forever been one of my many nicknames. I have always worn that label as a badge of honor, even if I have not always handled myself with honor while enveloped in a situation that requires me to act like a soldier for my children. (If you are a soldier, then I profusely apologize for this analogy…I am not a fan of bugs or sleeping in the mud, being told what to do, wearing the same outfit as everyone else, nor am I in any way, shape or form anything an actual soldier would be.) Those who have been on the receiving end of this “soldier”ish behavior understand that it is in fact more of a primal, instinctual thing than it is because of any training I have had in how to develop warlike weapons. One of these weapons is unfortunately, my mouth. I realize I am not the only Mama who is known by this form of address, and I am banking on that as the basis for my reader’s understanding throughout this entry.
Anybody who knows our family knows that my kids are HUGE baseball freaks. They lived, ate, slept and breathed baseball every year until they graduated and then in some form or another, life had different ideas then to let them play a game every day as a career. Sad, yes, but I believe that many great lessons on the field translated into real life applications and I could not have raised my children in such an amazing way without the sport and the coaches with which my children spent a great deal of time.
That being said, we have had our share of drama in the realm of the sport we love so much (like I said ALL FIVE KIDS PLAYED THE SAME SPORT and I don’t even know who has that happen in their families, but let me tell you what…us Wilson’s are a peculiar bunch. We just do what we know how to do.) My kids have always taken their team responsibility very seriously and would play inside those lines as if their very lives depended on the outcome of that game. I didn’t push them, but let them decide the amount of effort that they would put in. I never argued with coaches about playing time or positions. That was not my job. If my kid wanted a different position or to not have to play left bench all season then my kid knew that it was up to him or her to change that, not me. What I would argue is the way their coaches treated them and the way they were handled if they showed even a speck of disrespect while in the coach’s care. I didn’t say that they couldn’t say when they didn’t like something, but I did tell them that I never wanted to hear anyone say they were being rude or nasty to people who had volunteered their time to help them get better at something. Some coaches were better than others and some were absolutely phenomenal people that have helped my kids grow into fantastic, well adjusted adults and young teens. (My sons are all grown men, but my daughters are still young enough that I have work to do.) All coaches, whether good or bad had an impact on my kids that shaped them into the people they are today.
Luckily, I have had very few situations where I have had to show out to make a coach rethink the way they were talking to or taking care of my kids. The same went for their teachers. I expected my kids to put forth all the effort they had into their studies, while accepting the fact that some subjects just went better for each of them then others. They were never to be disrespectful in speech or action, but if they were not comfortable with something, I expected them to be able to use their voice and stick up for themselves. Sometimes, I would have to step in. Many times, I had to watch my children go through something difficult and I would beat myself up for not being able to protect them from the pain the world tried to put on them.
I don’t have to guess that part of my intense desire to protect my babies came from the situations in my childhood where I was not protected from evil or from those who did not take care of the pain in my baby-heart. I watch intently at games and elsewhere the expressions on my kid’s faces when they are working at striking out a batter or dealing with a teacher or friend who may not be treating them with a fraction of the decency that they should be. My kids know I have their back. What my kids fail to recognize time and time again, is that sometimes it is my job to protect them not only from others who do not have their best interest at heart, but also from themselves when I see them doing things that may harm them. One of the ways I have had to do this is to make sure that when their bodies cannot handle the stress of the game they are in, that I continually ask them if they need to get pulled out. Coaches for years have known, and made mention of the fact, that a Wilson has to be dead on the field before they will let you take them out of the game. I have heard them say that the only way a Wilson will not argue with you if you bench them for a physical problem is if they are unconscious, and seeing as how 3 out of my 5 kids talk in their sleep, I’m not even sure that is an accurate statement.
My youngest daughter Jersey has just as much fight as her older brothers and sister, and make no mistake, she is just as good at the game as they are. She works herself as hard as she knows how and gives everything she has to the betterment of her team. She has been run over as a catcher by players twice her size, hit by numerous pitches, and an assortment of other “ow” moments that completely torture her growing body. She’s had seasons where she has flipped in between pitching and catching and has thrown more balls in one inning than I have in my entire lifetime. (I simply taught my kids the sport, not how to have talent or skill at playing it.)
This season, Jersey has pitched every single game. I’m not talking about some of the games, I’m talking there has been two she has not pitched the entire 6 innings (or two hours’ worth because of regulation time limit). One week, she had games on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and when the coach sent her in to pitch on that Wednesday I became “Mama Bear”. Before the game, Jersey had informed her coach that her arm was sore. The coach slapped some icy hot on her and sent her out anyway. She’s only thirteen and that much pitching or repetitive motion of any kind can cause severe issues with mobility and use later in life. Fortunately for her coach and my daughter’s self-esteem, God reminded me that sometimes I need to breathe before I handle situations and remember to speak in love. Now, when I say he reminded me, I mean He put his hand over my mouth and as he sometimes does adopted a “thug” attitude that he knew I could hear.(I really don’t know why God sounds like Ice Cube when I am doing something he disapproves of, but that is just the way I hear Him.) I couldn’t talk or even form words. I was livid that my daughter had just been taught that her pain didn’t matter as long as they got what they needed out of her for the game. I was angry that Jersey had used her voice and was told that her voice would not be heard.
I didn’t say anything to the coach that night, but instead went home and made sure Jersey took care of her arm the way we have been taught to do by doctors, coaches, and physical therapists that have taken care of my other kids. She was sore the next day but after a few days of not playing because of a holiday she was good to go for the next game. I text the coach the next day and told her that if she couldn’t be trusted to take care of Jersey inside her diamond, then Jersey would not be playing for her. (Those of you who know me personally know this is not a direct reenactment of such a conversation, but a very streamlined and condensed version of the exchange that took place between her coach and I.) Since I had not spoken to the coach the night before in my anger, I was able to tell her what she needed to know without cussing her out and insulting her character, her person, and her whole entire family and the situation was also more easily resolved.
What does all this have to do with John 3:16? Here we go. For many of us raised in the church world, this was the first verse we were taught to memorize. The magnitude of its words is lost on most kids and for all intents and purposes, most adults as well. We know that God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, but we don’t really think about the severity and pain of that assignment. God showed me this in the situation with Jersey, the other situations in my life with my kids, and in several situations with my school kids. I love my kids. God loved his Son. His only Son.
I went into a fuming rage when my daughter was even close to being hurt. There have been other times in life when I have straight torn another person to shreds with both my words and my actions, (never physical but I have had people’s jobs taken away when they were grossly unfair or inappropriate to my children.) Yet, here’s where I got thrown into thinking about Jesus and what his death must have been like.
I went to the theaters to watch the Passion of the Christ. I don’t care if you like Mel Gibson or you don’t, that is not the point of the story. It greatly depicts what happened to Jesus in the last hours of his life on Earth at the very hands of the people he was sent here to save. So, let’s start with the events. First, he knows what is coming. He knows his whole purpose for being sent to Earth was to die for the sins of the world. Yet, as the time grows close, he goes to the Garden of Gethsamane to pray and leaves his friends to act as lookouts for the Roman soldiers who he knows are coming to get him. He prays and asks his Father, “I know we talked about this, but if you can find any other way to do this, then let’s do that. I don’t think I want to do this, but if you say it’s the only way then let me do it.” He goes back a few times and to his friends, who are supposed to care about what is happening to him and finds them sleeping instead of being concerned about the fear of what is coming. Like its not happening to them, so they can rest but he’s experiencing turmoil and needs help and all they can do is snore propped up by the trees around them. That in itself would have caused me to sin. I’d have lost my temper there. But, I’m not Jesus and he did not. He just mentioned that he knew, and it was disturbing to him that they couldn’t honor this one little request.
Then, he gets betrayed and sold for 30 pieces of silver by a man that had followed him around for 3 years. I looked up how much that would have been, and I don’t know how to convert anything from that time into today’s standard, but nothing I read said that he got the equivalent to anything huge. Back then, it would have been anywhere from about $90 to $3000. How livid would you be if you found out a friend sold you out for a measly $3000?
Third, Jesus is denied by another of his disciples, Peter, three times. Peter was asked if he was friends with Jesus and Peter was like “No, bro, I don’t know that dude.” So, one of Jesus’ closest friends, who had been with him every single day for 3 years didn’t even want people to know they were friends. Most of us in a relationship, would have blown up a Facebook page with insults, or started talking to the rumor mill about how disloyal our friend was if that happened to us, or found some passive aggressive way of posting a meme on any social media outlet we could find as an indirect jab, so we can act like nobody knows who we are talking about and still can say we are blameless in the destruction of our friend’s reputation.
He gets arrested and goes before a fake jury of people and the people that he was sent here to save, the people he had just spent three years healing and performing miracles on are all in the square, clamoring for him to be put to death. People that had come from miles around to see him work and do things that fixed their lives and made them better and in less pain were now screaming insults at him, spitting on him, and petitioning Pilate to end his life. Pilate washes his hands of the whole thing, but not before ordering Jesus to be whipped until his skin looks like bloody tree bark. They make him a crown of thorns and force him to give up his clothes so they can play games to see who gets to keep the things he’s wearing. Back in those days, they didn’t have a closet full of clothes. They had the only set of clothes he owned taken from him.
Jesus is not only stripped of his friends’ loyalty, his clothing, and his decency, but then they decide to make a parade out of him carrying the very cross on which he is to die a very long way to his death. If that isn’t a terrible analogy of the Green Mile, I don’t know that I have ever heard one. They finally get to the death site and nail him through his wrists and feet to a cross. The human body can stand a lot of pain but consider how much agony Jesus would have been in by the time they even got to the place where they NAILED him to a cross. Who nails people to trees? What kind of mind thinks that up?
Jesus is hanging on this tree in front of hundreds of people who are ENJOYING his pain. They are laughing at him and then they start mocking him and telling him “Hey, if you are who you say you are, then come down by yourself!” The most awful revelation is that Jesus could have gotten himself off that cross. He could have. He had spent the last three years doing things that were impossible for everyone else, even the leaders of the churches of the day. Nobody could do the things he had the power to do. And he stayed on that cross, with all those insults, with all that hopelessness, with all that pain, with all the wounds, and with all that condemnation so that we wouldn’t have to.
But it isn’t over. The Bible tells us that the amount of sin that came to rest on Jesus as he hung, broken and beaten and bloody, on that cross, that God had to turn his head because he couldn’t look at his Son in that condition anymore. In this span of time Jesus lost everything just to give us life. And then he died. Next to two criminals. Not a very fitting death for a King.
God showed me something in this that I have seen a million times before, but never connected in this way. God has a way of doing that when he wants us to understand the enormity of what he’s trying to get across to us. He didn’t use his Ice Cube voice this time. He used his Charles Ingalls voice. He said, “How would you have felt if your son or your daughter was up there on that cross?” And I’ll be honest…it hit me like a ton of bricks. I am ready to go to war with anyone who hurts my kids’ feelings, let alone tries to hurt them physically and even that, nobody has ever tried to kill one of my children. I would have done everything in my power to keep my son or daughter safe, including burning down the entire city and the hill where all those people were if it meant keeping my son alive. If my son was being laughed at and spit on they’d have had to kill me in the square before I let them beat my kid with anything, let alone turn him into hamburger with a whip like the one that was used on Jesus. I will take arrows, bullets, drink poison and kill to keep my kids from being hurt. And God had to watch his Son go through all of that. I doubt knowing he’d be risen again in 3 days was that much consolation at the time. Even if my kid was being treated that way “for the good of the world” I still wouldn’t have been able to handle it. I am too much “Mama Bear” for that.
But God let this happen because he loved the human beings he had made in his image so much that he was willing to let Jesus come down and pay the price for us. He was willing to let his only Son die so that we could have life. I’ll be perfectly honest with you…I couldn’t do it. I mean I love my people, but Jesus died for people who will never know him. He did this so they would have a chance at being able to sit in the Kingdom of Heaven with him and his Father. God let Jesus pay the price for my sins up there. I wasn’t there when Jesus was crucified, and I didn’t spit on him or hit him with a reed stick or whip him into bloody oblivion. But my sins kept him up there just the same as theirs did. I was one of the people that put Jesus to death so he could give me life.
The second revelation that God gave to me is that Jesus prayed for the people that were hurting him. He asked God “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). In Luke 23:28 it even says that Jesus told the crying women “Do not weep for me but for yourselves and for your children.” He tells the criminal next to him that because the felon believed in him that he had done nothing wrong that he got to go to heaven too and that man was hanging on his cross for wrongs he’d actually committed. Even in the greatest pain of his life he was begging for love for those who’d put him there. He didn’t throw a fit for having to bear the weight of the world, he didn’t throw any of his friends under the bus for being crappy friends, he didn’t yell at God or even say something under his breath. He did what he had to do and did it in love. I never noticed this before, but while he was dying, he even set up a spiritual adoption for Mary Magdalene and his mother Mary. In a time where everyone else was watching his agony and rejoicing in it, he was still doing the work that he had to do according to the plan God gave him WHILE ALSO meeting the needs of those who followed him. He was acting out his Greatest Commandment. Matthew 22:37-39 “Jesus replied, ’You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Jesus went through all of that just so we would know that he loved us enough to save us. He saved us and all he asks in return is for us to love him and love ourselves and love our neighbors. I don’t even like my neighbor, so I don’t speak to her. Jesus says, “Pray for your neighbors and those who do bad things to you.” A good day for me is if I don’t cuss someone out for accidentally cutting me off in traffic. He did all of that for us and in return he asks us to love. Just love. He doesn’t ask us to be perfect or never cuss, or never be in a bad relationship that doesn’t honor him. He just asks us to love. Just love. We act like he asked us to die our own death on that cross, when in fact he already did. He says I love you! Listen to me and go love your neighbors and that annoying lady at your work. Love the man that can’t get along with anyone. Just love each other. Just love. He’s not asking too much.