March 23, 2006

Why Shouldn't He Get to Share?

t was finally my turn to hunker down with the Sunday comics. I still vividly recall taking that particular Sunday paper to my mother to show her the Peanuts comic strip. She stopped what she was doing, and gave careful attention to each panel, her face showing just the right emotion at each one. When she came to the last square, she threw her head back and laughed and laughed, and touched my shoulder softly to thank me for sharing it with her. I went away happy and smiling. I’d brought my mother a kind of gift--made her laugh--and felt once more our special bond.
I was still in the room when that same Sunday paper made its way through the family to my younger brother, who then brought to my mother the very same comic strip. Once again, she stopped what she was doing, and gave her full attention to each panel, her face showing just the right emotion at each one. And then, surprise of all surprises, when she came to the last square, she threw her head back and laughed and laughed. My brother went away happy and smiling.
I turned to her in dumbfounded amazement. What was going on here? It had been only a few minutes; didn’t she remember that this was the very same comic strip I’d just shown her? How could she look like she’d never seen it before? And how was it possible that she laughed just as hard? I’ve never forgotten her answer: “Why shouldn’t he get to share it with me, too?”
Her answer was just right. I didn’t feel rebuked, just enlightened. I was undiminished. But my mother grew larger. And, perhaps for the first time, across my young mind flashed the realization “There’s more to this parenting thing than I thought.” A few uncomfortable moments later, I was humbled at another thought: maybe I hadn’t been the first to show it to her either. Maybe, just as much as my brother, I had been allowed to share.
I started watching my folks to see what else they did just to make us feel involved. I noticed that when my mom baked cookies, she let us kids help. Did I say help? How can more cookie dough on floor, fingers, and mouths than on the cookie sheets be helping? Her kitchen looked the worse for it. It created more laundry, as we tended to wear the results. It certainly didn’t save her time And the cookies themselves? Well, we created a, shall we say, somewhat less symmetrical product.
So why did she invite us to help? Suddenly it became clear to me: so that we could share in the experience, so that we could spend time with her, so that we could learn how to work together. Realizing that this invitation had caused her so much extra time and work reminded me again of how complicated this parenting thing was, and how much love was pumped into it at every turn.
It dawned on me that this might also be true of my heavenly Father. I considered the method Jesus established for evangelism, His children inviting others to come to Him. I reasoned that angels could do it beautifully (as they had at His birth), and that even rocks could cry out, while even my best efforts on His behalf were fairly feeble things. So why on earth would our heavenly Father include fallen human beings in this crucial life-and-death enterprise?
All I could conclude was that maybe He also wants us to have the opportunity of sharing, and of inviting His other children to come and share with Him too. Perhaps He involves us so that we can spend time with Him, so that His kids can learn how to work together--so that we, too, might learn the lessons of loving sacrifice.
Being a human partner in the plan of salvation had always seemed a kind of requirement. But at that moment I began to understand how very kind it was of God--how very loving--to let us share.
Valerie Phillips is an associate director of the women’s residence hall at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where she has ministered to collegiate women for 25 years.