I have a friend, Sarah, who recently adopted her son from Ethiopia. That sentence makes it sound like such a simple thing, but it was far from simple. Sarah and her husband spent two years trying to adopt a son–hitting dead ends at every turn and having to start over countless times. As the long, difficult months turned into years, they kept pursuing their son. Finally, last month, they brought him home. And he has diarrhea. The crazy diarrhea that most of us would only encounter in our worst nightmares. The covered-in-poop needing-a-bath-at-2-a.m. variety that I think should earn Sarah the Mom’s Medal of Honor.
Sarah said something to me last week that I loved. (And don’t worry, friends, I’ll always get your permission before quoting you by name on my blog.) Of course, Sarah is thrilled to have her son with her and loves him immensely in spite of their poop-filled nights. And she said that this experience with her son is a great illustration of the love that God our Father has for us. We smell like crap to Him, and He still pursues us and loves us as His children.
It might seem a little shocking that Sarah thinks we smell like crap to God. (Or smelled like crap, if we are in Christ.) But this passage from Romans backs up her statement:
Romans 8:6-11 (emphasis mine):
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
I’ve never noticed before how in this passage, it seems that Paul has to ease us into the truth of our relationship to God before Christ. We don’t want to hear this, do we? But we can get used to the idea that we were weak without Christ. Although we were weak, Christ died for us. But then Paul says we were a little worse than that–we were sinners. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Then Paul hits us with this: we were enemies of God. Enemies?!? What could I have possibly done to be called an enemy of God? And yet, while we were enemies of God, Christ died for us.
If the only thing separating me from God was a little gossip and a dash of impatience with my children, maybe I could work that out on my own–somehow making myself righteous in God’s sight. But if I’m an enemy of God, how do I start to fix that? I can’t. It can only be done by the blood of Christ shed for me, reconciling me to God.
How does this apply to my struggles as a mom? Although it’s been awhile since we’ve had diarrhea around here, I often feel disgusted by my kids’ selfishness, exasperated by their disobedience, and exhausted by their constant neediness. However, I am called to love them as God has loved me. That is, I am called to love them when there is nothing about them that is lovely. I am called to love them sacrificially and lavish grace on them even though they have done nothing to deserve it.
How amazing that God would pursue me, reconcile me to Himself through the death of His own Son, and adopt me as His daughter when all I have to bring to the table is my status as an enemy of God who smells like crap.