This is for you


I had been preparing him for at least a week.

“Andrew,” I’d say, “the girls are going to go to school soon.”

And he’d nod his in agreement as if we were totally on the same page here.  “Yes. Andrew goes to school.”

“No, babe.  Andrew stays with Mommy.”

“No, I go to school with Catherine!  I go on the school bus.”

I explained it.  I corrected him.  I tried to make sure he’d really understand.

But of course he didn’t.

Tuesday morning came, the first day of school.  We strolled out to wait for the school bus and snapped some “first day of school” photos.

He wore his own John Deere backpack and looked eager to fit in with the big girls, posing for the pictures with everyone else.

He didn’t ask why we were hanging out in the front yard.  Why we stood around wearing backpacks and watching the road.  Why I placed a hand on each of my daughters and prayed for them.

Then the bus arrived.

I scooped him up and held him as he slowly and fully realized the situation.

“No!!!  I go to school!”  He squirmed and wiggled, trying to escape and make it onto the bus, but then it pulled away and there we were: just mom and the two-year-old.  No more summer fun with the big sisters.

I had a plan, though.  After all, I’m an old-pro at this by now.  We stopped long enough in the house just to grab our bag and then walked right back out the door.

We played at a playground.  We took a long walk.  We hung out at the library.  We ate chicken nuggets.  We came home just in time to watch some Mickey Mouse before he took a nap.

And when he woke up, it was time to get the girls.

There.  One day down.  169 more school days to go.

I can’t treat him to a morning out on the town every day of this school year, of course.

But my heart is FOR him.  I plan ways to ease his disappointment.  I prepare him for difficult seasons and the hard days.

I know what he loves and how to bring him joy.

I pray for his year just as much as I pray for the girls who climbed up into a school bus and headed off for classrooms, playgrounds, and busy hallways.

Maybe it felt like I was against him.  I was the obstacle to him climbing onto that big yellow bus and having a grand old time at school with his sisters.

But no.  This is the tough love, the mysterious mercy.  Kindergarten will arrive all too soon and then he will go and time will rush on.

No need to skip over this precious time and these few years without homework and tests, grades, playground squabbles, and the like.

This is the way I love my son.

And this is the way I am loved.

And this is the way God loves you too.

In Romans, I read a question:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  (Romans 8:31 ESV).

It means that I shouldn’t fear persecution from others. I shouldn’t fear what any man could do to me because God is mighty and able and is my Protector and Shield.

But before I get to that, I need to stop here:  God is FOR us.

This is the truth we rely on.

If God wasn’t for us, we’d be deeply vulnerable to the attacks of others and the battering of this world.  We’d be lost causes and hopeless messes.

But that’s not who we are because that’s not who HE is.

God is, indeed, FOR us, and that changes everything.

He tenderly cares for the truest needs of our hearts.  He extends mysterious mercy, protecting us in ways we don’t see, providing for us in ways we can’t imagine, and preparing us for futures we can’t anticipate.

In this same chapter in Romans, we see what this looks like:

  • We are no longer condemned (Romans 8:1)
  • We have life through His Spirit (Romans 8:12)
  • We are beloved children and heirs of God (Romans 8:14-17)
  • The Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26).
  • He’s working everything out for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).
  • Christ is interceding for us even now (Romans 8:34).
  • We can’t be separated from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35).
  • We are more than conquerors in Jesus (Romans 8:37).

We can rest right here, just stretch ourselves out on this sweet bed of promise:  Because God is FOR us, we need not be afraid–not of the unexpected, not of the uncertain, not of the painful or the downright hard.

This is what it means to be extravagantly and abundantly loved by our gracious God.


Orange Makeup/White Shirt and Forgiveness

“I’m so grateful we never have to stand at a distance from Christ. Not only is He incapable of catching our ‘disease,’ but also He is never reluctant to embrace us”
(Beth Moore, Jesus: the One and Only, p. 242)

I love my kids.  Normally, I’m eager to accept their hugs and I’ll wrap them up in my arms at the slightest whim.

The other night, though, my daughter was fully decked out in her costume as an Oompa Loompa in a production of Willy Wonka, Jr, complete with thick, bright orange makeup all the way to her hairline and down to her neck.

…And she wanted to hug me.006

…While I was wearing a white shirt.

…A really, really white shirt.

Did I mention she was orange?  Really, really orange.  In fact, I think Crayola should consider naming a new color “Oompa Loompa Orange” in her honor.

So, I hugged her at first with an intricately choreographed dance, making sure her orange head never made contact with my clothing. She bobbed; I weaved.

Then, I stood still for a moment and tilted her face to the side so that only the top of her head touched me.  (Her hair, thankfully, wasn’t orange!)   I gave her what I’ve decided to call “the sideways head hug.”

My goal here was a kind of sterile affection: Showing love without staining my clothes.

I’ve learned this dance over years of practice as a mom.  Kids, after all, come at me every day with Oreos on their hands and spaghetti sauce oozing from their fingers. More paint makes it onto them than every makes it onto paper and then they reach out and touch me to get my attention.

In fact, most of my clothes bear the marks of their hands on my thighs (where they could reach when standing up as toddlers) and on my shoulders (from the times I picked those little ones up).

When I read through the Gospels, I’m amazed at how Jesus essentially wore a white shirt and yet never failed to hug, squeeze, lift up, and cherish all those who came to him—even when they were covered in stains of sin, death, and all that was unclean.

He never dodged them in attempts to escape the messiness of their lives.

When the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years braved the disapproving crowd in order to reach Jesus, she was unclean.  Continual bleeding meant continually being cut-off from public worship and physical contact with others.

One brush of her skin against your arm and you’d be unclean, as well.

Yet, she touched Jesus and He didn’t flinch or condemn her.  He didn’t sidestep her presence.  He healed her and set her free.

When Jesus saw the coffin of a widow’s only son pass by surrounded by wailing mourners and his mother in despair, Jesus could have slipped away and ignored it all.  Touching a dead body was a guaranteed mess, making you unclean by the law’s religious standards.

Jesus did it anyway, though, telling the dead boy to arise and then watching this only son embrace his mother again.

Jesus ate with the rabble, touched the eyes of the blind, and laid hands on the demon-possessed.  His was a physical affection, the real and true fingerprints of God placed on undeserving lives and unclean situations.

Yet, instead of being tainted or stained Himself, He brought purity to others.

Paul put it this way:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Too often we miss the significance of this fact: Jesus did what was unclean and yet nothing could penetrate the purity of the Son of God.

He was sinless, blameless, totally righteous before God, but He didn’t use that as an excuse to separate Himself from others.  Instead, it was His joy to absorb their stains of sin, now bleached white when laid at the feet of the Messiah.

It’s what He did on the streets of Galilee and Judea and Samaria.

It’s what He did on the cross.

It’s what He does even now when we let Him get involved in the dirtiest, muckiest, and most sin-plagued aspects of our lives.

That’s what John assures us when he writes: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

This means we don’t need to hide away or shun his society.  We don’t need to pretend the unclean blots on our lives don’t exist.

It also means that we can follow his example by no longer worrying about our clean white shirts and start doling out affection without restraint, not avoiding the mess of others when it makes us uncomfortable.  Like Jesus, we “walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us” (Ephesians 5:2).

Sometimes real love means getting messy, maybe even orange.

Originally published as Orange Makeup/White Shirt on August 15 2012

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King