This was the scene today. Bess and I were in the kitchen talking about something inane, like how we are going to spend our weekend? (its all a formality, we are going to spend it tired, chasing children, and lamenting how quickly it is passing… such is parenthood). Anyway, mid-conversation crying starts from the other room. My sister-in-law Mercy says, “He bonked his head on the table,” and Ignatius comes trotting into the kitchen holding the back of his head crying. I, the closer of the two parents, crouch down and open my arms. Iggy, cuts hard to the left, jukes my attempts at comforting father and gets swept up in Bess’ motherly embrace. Immediately, she is all, “It’s okay honey. You are all right sweetheart. I’m here snookums, sugar lips, etc, etc.” Ok, maybe not the last one, but the whole scene got me thinking (note to self: the tendency to have theological musings as your child is in pain might be why he chooses mom).
See, I think one of the temptations that heady Christian’s face is that we are bad at expressing the emotive motherly church that ‘loves on’ her children. We’re really good at talking about love and defending that love sometimes need to be firm (which it does!). However, as a heady Christian, I frequently skip the step my wife offered my son so well.
It is easy to be more like the evil stepmother than the loving mother. Let me offer examples of one vs the other:
A child bonks his head playing under the table.
Comes to the evil-stepmother crying: “Well I’ve always told you not to do that. Guess you learned your lesson. I was only telling you no because I loved you.”
Comes to loving mother crying: After comforting the crying child by loving on him, she says, “Honey, I’m sorry you bonked your head, but this is why you aren’t supposed to play under there.”
Am I crazy in thinking this is analogous to the ways we, as the Church, can approach those hurt by their own sin? Certainly there is the mother who doesn’t discipline or correct and we need to avoid that extreme, but that is hardly the heady Christian’s temptation. No, we are more likely to fall into the trap of correcting before comforting and relying on our statement of love to suffice instead of consciously expressing love. We are tempted to take a detached, “What did you think would happen?” attitude, instead of accepting that sometimes we don’t think, or at last not rationally.
The Church is a mother, and like any parent she needs to be able to correct and guide her children, but she also needs to know that sometimes they need to get through their tears before they’ll open their ears.