As a child the Lenten theology that received the most emphasis was that we must be aware and thankful that Jesus sacrificed his life for us and died for all our sins.
This is the message of the cross for certain, but as a small child that message put a cold chill throughout my whole body as well as my emotional being. That little girl screamed: “No, I’m not good enough. I’m bad. Don’t die for me, I’m not worth it!”
Though most of the time I know differently about my self-worth and the unconditional love of Jesus, every time I peek into darkness those messages pound at me to come back and claim as home that space that frightened a fragile little girl.
I could go directly from here into the importance of what and how we teach our children, but I won’t. That is beyond my focus, and I trust that our children no longer receive the loving sacrificial message of Jesus laden with false guilt and self-disgust.
But I do wonder how we receive the message that a sacrifice was made for us in the name of an unconditional love that remains an unanswered mystery about how it works?
Perhaps we have a glimpse of it as we watch a teacher laying over the bodies of their students trying to shield them from bullets. Or a dad desperately preforming CPR on a young son who was found at the bottom of a pool.
Can we begin to grasp it when we realize that we are like the little girl and don’t deserve a love that we can’t earn, or a love that has no strings attached, a love that is complete?
Can we live with a sacrifice so complete that the words of the theologian Virginia Ramey Mollenkott have meaning?
There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more. There is nothing you can do to make God love you any less. God simply Loves You.
Next week we will look at longing.
Jolene Bergstrom Carlson