February 21, 2016
I can remember one really dreadful night when my children were young. A tooth was coming, and she was sleeping very badly. As was I. The Calpol had not kicked in yet, so my usually sweet-tempered baby was a ball of screaming rage.
I understood perfectly. In her small world, she was in unendurable pain (she didn’t know about the wonders of paracetamol) and she was suffocating (it’s hard to blow the nose of a 1-year-old). So in her anger and frustration at the pain, in her fear and distress at the (she felt) life-threatening danger, she flailed.
Oh, how she flailed! She screamed and writhed and twisted and yelled. I picked her up from her cot to comfort her and was rewarded with a long scratch down my cheek from her needle-sharp baby nails. Ouch! Because she was hurting, she hurt me. But it was not meant. She was just tired and angry, and when we’re like that, we flail. We all do it, and for most of us it is not solved by 5ml of Calpol, a bottle of milk and a cuddle. Well, maybe the last one.
I’ve done it myself, too. Before I had my children, I experienced the pain of over a decade of childlessness. Thoughtless hints dropped by well-meaning relatives only worsened the pain. So when a kindly church worker asked me if I wanted to talk about it one day, I pretty much bit her head off. (If she is reading this now, I heartily apologise.)
That’s what Jesus’ lament was about. He looked out over this city that was supposed to be the one place on earth that should have understood; the place when Solomon built a home for God; the place of pilgrimage and prayer – and it was flailing. God’s children were hitting out in anger born of hidden guilt; screaming for the blood of the one sent to save; scratching the face of the caring parent.
Jesus wanted to hold the people. He saw their inner hurts. They were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36) and needed to receive forgiveness and comfort, “but … would not”. What sad words.
We all do it. We all have bits of anger tucked away inside. For some it is better hidden, for others more obvious. A raw nerve, a subject we avoid, a topic that riles us far beyond what it deserves, flailing when a hidden pain is touched.
God knows that we do it. God knows why we do it. Like a parent with a teething baby, he longs to hold us, to comfort us and to take away the pain that makes us scream at him and writhe out of his hold. If we bring our anger and our hurts to God then there is the possibility of healing and resolution. If we burying them deeply, then they will only continue to fester and gnaw.
Where are you flailing?
Either now or, if more appropriate, at home, write to God. If not now, make a solemn promise to do it at the very first opportunity. This is the kind of thing that is very easily put off until it never happens.
You will need a few minutes of quiet, and pen and paper.
First, spend a couple of minutes slowing down from busy-ness and putting aside for the moment your to-do list.
Then, before God, look back at a time when you have reacted with more vehemence that you would expect to some comment, situation or person. As honestly as you can, write on the paper the reason for that. Did it remind you of a past hurt, a hidden fear or an unacknowledged desire? Whatever the cause, bring it to God and lay it before him for healing.
Tuck the paper in your Bible next to verse 34, and as you read it, substitute your own name. O Child, Child. How often would I have gathered you as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!
Let God gather you.
I am sorry for the times that I turn away from you in guilt or anger, in fear or pride.
Thank you that you are always more ready to turn to me than I am to turn to you;
more ready to forgive than I am to confess;
more ready to heal than I am to come for healing.
As I bring this patch of darkness to you, flood me with your light and healing, I pray,
in Jesus’ name
Luke 13:31-35 English Standard Version Anglicised
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.