When I was a senior in High School, my favorite person of all time was born. He made his entrance into this world on a Monday night before an important district softball game against a rival town. Besides it being a great night of celebration, it was also a night filled with stress and frustration for that 17-year-old girl waiting in the lobby. I was picked up from a softball practice by my father and driven to the hospital in the next town. Just for giggles, you should know my dad drove an El Camino. (Hopefully, you can fully comprehend my inner and outer turmoil.) The entire way to the hospital I had a bulky typewriter in my lap, backpack at my feet, and softball dirt EVERYWHERE. It’s humorous to look back on this day that brought so much joy and to think of how stressed I was internally.
The problem with my sister going into labor on that Monday was the fact that I was in a seriously busy season of high school life. I was more stressed than any other phase of life thus far and now, of all times, I had to sit waiting. All of that angst washed away, when I saw my nephew for the first time. None of the other stuff mattered. The stressors that had been plaguing me for weeks had all seemed to dissipate. I had just met my new and forever best friend. Being there for the birth of my nephew made all the other little high school things seem somehow unimportant.
Since before my nephew could speak, I have told him this phrase over and over again, “I Love You to the Moon and Back.” This phrase was just something I had heard somewhere but it fully applied to this awesome little guy. As he grew, I would ask him, “Do you know how much I love you?” And as he began to comprehend my question, he would reply, “to the moon” or something similar, and I would reply, “Nope, I love you to the moon and back.” He used to just smile or giggle, but he is not so appreciative of the affection anymore because he is almost 9. My nephew has quite an attitude at times and is often exasperated by the family and myself, but I will tell you this, he is still my favorite.
I was reminded of early times with my nephew when I received a text from Martin’s wife, Lora. She was telling me about this moment with their daughter Caroline and her favorite wall art from her room. It is a cute piece of art that simply says, “I love you to the moon and back.” Lora said that Caroline often rephrases the saying with silly more tangible things like, “I love you to that chair and back.” Oftentimes, Caroline uses this phrase as a funny quip about her measured love for her parents, but one night her quick quip of love became a beautiful insight to God’s love for us.
In December, I bought some Bible storybooks for Caroline for her birthday. And as most nights go, Caroline wanted a bedtime story and she picked the book I gave her about Peter. Now I should warn you that Caroline is an amazingly intelligent child, and her insight to some things takes you back because she has an incredible understanding on big and sometimes complicated things. As they read through the story, there was a picture of Jesus on the cross and Lora began discussing with Caroline about how Jesus loved us enough to die for us, so much so, that He was even separated from God the Father. As the discussion carried on Caroline thought of her favorite saying and then applied it to what Jesus did for us. As they were finishing their talk, Caroline shared a piece of wisdom, “He loved us to the cross and back?!”
Caroline was able to sum up Jesus’ life and death in a simple statement.
As I read the text it struck me that there are millions of people that don’t understand that simple fact. There are people all around the world that can’t comprehend what this 4-year-old put so eloquently. That rephrasing of a cute saying astounded me. I realized that as we think about all that God has done for us, this showing of love was the biggest. Jesus ended his earthly ministry with an exclamation of love. The cross was meant to symbolize evil and hate through history, but instead God used it to symbolize hope and love.
As I wrote this blog, I continued to think of how profound a statement came out of such a small girl. Last Sunday, Pastor Tim preached on Jesus teaching Nicodemus in John chapter 3. His sermon was incredible and there is one part that basically promised that there would be no dry eyes in the house. (To view the sermon if you weren’t there, here is the link https://vimeo.com/152897590.) I highly recommend listening, because it made me tear up in my office, even after Pastor Tim had already told me the story. The story was about a Father’s love for his daughter and God’s love for His Son, and the comparison of our Heavenly Father’s love is extremely moving.
I would venture to say that one of (if not the) most well-known scriptures in the Bible makes its’ appearance in John 3 near the end of the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus. John 3:16 is a great summary of God’s love, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, died a painful unearned death, and experienced separation from God in order to show His love for ALL people.
I love that a simple phrase and a Bible storybook could get Caroline to reach this pinnacle of wisdom in plain words, “Jesus loved us to the cross and back.” It’s no wonder why God tells us to have the faith of a child; their faith could be a lesson for us all. Sometimes the simplicity of a child can explain the complexities of God better than any past theologian.
I hope that we can take this child’s wisdom and use it for our daily walk. Between Pastor Tim’s sermon and Caroline’s wise words, I am affirmed yet again that God is continuously at work in this world. As you finish out this week, think about the fact that Jesus loves you. He loved you to the cross and back. That right there is all the wisdom you need!