Four year old Margaret started to cry in her booster seat. I looked in the rear view mirror. “What’s the matter?” I figured a tag was poking her, her socks weren't "just right," or she was hungry. With a defeated, gaspy cry, she answered, “Sometimes…sometimes I just have a hard time loving Jesus.” Woah. This was not even close to anything I expected to hear.
I had no immediate answer for her, so I turned it over to Jack, in the “way back” of the minivan. I didn’t know if he’d been listening, but I said, “Jack, is there anything you could say to Margaret?” I was used to his surprising us with wisdom and a near-adult understanding of issues. Maybe he had learned something in school that would give her comfort. I don’t know, but I knew I had nothing.
He responded quickly, “Well, I always knew that about you, Margaret…” Uh oh. Not what I’d been hoping for. Little boy Jack doled out judgment, not comfort, giving his sister the absolute last thing she needed. Maybe Margaret didn’t seem as devout as he did at all of six years old. Maybe he’d seen her do one too many shimmy dances and donkey kicks during nightly prayers. Who knows? But in that instant, I saw in Jack’s response the response of so many people, the assumption that he could see into someone else’s heart.
I redirected the conversation, but not before saying, “You know what, Margaret? Sometimes I have a hard time loving Jesus, too. I can’t see Him. It’s hard to love someone I can’t touch and feel.” I was 31 years older than Margaret, but in that moment, in her vulnerability, I knew she spoke a truth shared by me and by many.
And Jack’s reaction, although shocking at the time, reminds me of how often we judge, thinking we have a window into each other’s hearts. Thinking it’s our place to determine how devoted someone else is, rather than focusing on our own heart condition. It's uncharitable, and unbiblical, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s (4 year old sister's) eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
I suppose, perhaps, that people think I have a strong faith. But just last week I had a really hard time loving Jesus. I begged Him to help make an impossible situation better, but it felt like I was speaking into the darkness. I told Him I trusted Him, but it was just so hard and scary. Much of what was going on felt far too close to almost 3 years ago when our world came crashing down, when our prayers weren't answered in the way we wanted.
And yet He came through. Man, did He come through, in powerful and miraculous ways! But what I've learned, and am still learning, is that He somehow comes through even when things don't turn out the way we want. Even when we are neglecting to address the planks in our eyes. And even when we have a hard time loving Him.