“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.” The verse from John 3:16 made the young teen respond with his own thoughts.
“I think God could have come up with a better plan.”
The boy’s words jarred me. Then I got thinking about God’s love, His plan for redemption, and how I apply that same kind of thinking to my own life.
I refrained from speaking the shock I felt at the boy’s words and instead mulled things over in my mind for a minute. I could see things from the teen’s perspective. He had been brought up in a world where pain and suffering are to be avoided at all costs. It does not matter what age you are or what issue you face. In this world, a quick fix is most often sought.
Didn’t do your homework? Copy a friend’s.
Have a headache? Pop an ibuprofen.
Want belly fat reduced? Have a procedure.
Want sex without responsibility? Use birth control.
Got pregnant? Have an abortion.
Lusting after another? Have an affair.
Got caught? Buy a divorce.
The list goes on…
Some quick fixes seem like small compromises, but little things open gateways to bigger things, both good and bad. Some quick fixes are obviously worse than others, but they generally have one thing in common.
Quick fixes do not eliminate the underlying issue.
It can be difficult to identify the underlying issue; figuring out how to solve it is infinitely more difficult!
Yet we feel fairly comfortable thinking God could have found another way around the Adam and Eve fallen humanity fiasco.
He is God so of course He could have. He could have snapped His fingers and forced everyone to repent and Love Him forever. Had He done that, we would have all fallen in line at His command and done whatever He desired.
But His desire is for us to freely love Him.
God knows that without free will, true love cannot exist.
And so He allows mankind to use free will to reject Him. He watches as one human after another sins in small ways and large ones. He watches as we justify wrongdoings and excuse missteps. He listens as we cried out in agony. He knows intimately of pain caused by the misuse of free will upon His Beloved children and the misuse we inflict upon ourselves as well.
Time and again, the Lord has watched as mankind fell, became aware of his faults, and turned back to Him. He smelled the burnt offerings of animal sacrifices offered in repentance. He saw the effort required to make right wrongs done, not only in the present, but generationally. He knew, try as our ancestors might, their sacrifice could never erase the stain of sin or the permanence of death.
Because of the unique Love the Creator has for His children, He knew that man’s best animal sacrifice could never atone for the fall of man. No matter how hard mankind tried, he could not make things right.
Man had betrayed the Lord; man must suffer the consequence.
Divinity had been betrayed; Divinity must grant forgiveness.
Try as mankind might, his sacrifice would always be tainted and puny compared to the harm caused to humanity and the affront to the One who gives life, and so, God, in His perfect plan, Sacrificed Himself. He became a sinless human and replaced the animal sacrifices of our ancestors.
The Lord had Mercy on the world
And sent His only begotten Son.
It was no quick fix, but it is the perfect plan as Jesus parallels Adam.
Adam was brought to life with the breath of God who we now know is three Divine persons. Jesus created Adam and was also the direct descendent of Adam. In the garden, Adam was naked without shame but was sent into the world clothed and in shame. Jesus was clothed on the path to Calgary but, having been stripped of His garments, left the world naked in hidden humble glory.
The tree was at the center of Adam’s downfall, and a wooden Cross was the center of Jesus Sacrifice. Adam ate the forbidden fruit which hung from the tree, and Jesus by hanging on the Cross became the eternal Bread of Life. Where Adam was told not to eat the fruit, Jesus declared we must eat the fruit He offers. He told us we MUST His Flesh and drink His Blood. By eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, Adam was condemned to death. By eating the Flesh of Jesus, we are promised eternal life.
The Lord assured Adam’s death by casting him into the world and placing an Angel bearing a flaming sword to guard the gate to Paradise (This Angel is believed to be the Archangel Uriel). This Archangel prevented Adam from re-entering the Garden, eating of the food again, and living in eternal suffering. This act of Mercy assured Adam and his descendants a death that could attain eventual salvation. We see Jesus pierced by the soldier’s sword emitting Blood and Water and thus condemning only death from the Cross. Where Adam’s sword prevented humanity from entering Paradise, Jesus’s sword provided salvation by opening the gates of Heaven.
Adam was sentenced with a life of hard labor. He would sweat and toil among the thorns. It is no coincidence that Jesus would undo that by wearing His Crown of Thorns.
Time and again, Jesus negated what Adam had done. It is even more interesting when you see how My Mary conquers the destruction of Eve, but that is for another post.
A Change in Perspective
When you look at all the pieces put together by scholars far more adept than I, a beautiful picture of salvation through Love is woven. This picture shows the perfection of God’s plan, not in the eyes of a young teenager perhaps, but in Divine ones. For God’s foresight, we can all be thankful.
I think of all the things I approach as this young boy approached Jesus’ Sacrifice.
How many times have I wondered why I did not get the job when it would be so easy for God to swoop down and give it to me? How many times have I wondered why I was sick or injured when the Great Physician could have easily cured me? How many times have I been wrongly hurt by another when God could have easily prevented such agony or, at the very least, showed me my victimizer feeling the effects of God’s Justice?
All such questions put me at the center. I ask things from my perspective and with the shortsightedness of one who wants immediate relief more than lessons of perseverance. I ask these things assuming I know what is best for, not only me, but for all life’s moving parts.
Instead, we are asked to take a longer view and to change our perspective.
It is amazing what happens when we live for God and others.
I saw this clearly not long ago. I recently went out to do a chore I had asked my older sons to do. I was aggravated. This chore was hard for me but would have been simple for any of my four older boys. Despite promises to help, they had not put in the time required and had left my youngest son and I to do all the work alone.
I started in an okay state of mind, but my hands were busy while my mind was not. and the devil got to work planting seeds of bitterness. Eventually I was thinking, not only should those boys have been doing the work, but that it was not fair that I had to. I bitterly wished their father was the kind of man who taught his sons to take care of their mother. I wished I had someone I could count on.
I fell into “Poor Me Mode”
Then it occurred to me.
All of my angry wishing was not helping me or them. I needed to change my perspective.
Life had not been easy for my kids, and, as young adults, they were now off doing their own things. They had jobs and girlfriends and things besides mom to worry about. They knew me to be capable and strong. I had showed them that,.
Then the real shift happened and I thought:
What if they are not meant to do this for me; what if I am meant to sacrifice this for them?
It changed everything.
I was no longer bitter about having to work so hard. I won’t say I enjoyed it, but I was happy to offer up my misery for their salvation. The job resulted in small cuts and scrapes that I could offer to Jesus as mortification for their sins. I knew they would still have to answer for what they have done. I cannot take responsibility for them. Eventually we will all stand in front of our Lord and hear our final judgment, but I could remove any harm they had caused me. I could forgive them for this pain I was suffering. My suffering could be redemptive.
This is not to excuse them at all. They should have helped out more, but the chore needed to be done and my being angry about it would not get it done faster or better. It would not help with the discussion I will have to have with them later.
It would not help with my main concern, which is helping my children, their spouses, and future generations get to Heaven.
That difficult chore may have been part of God’s perfect plan although I did not see it immediately.
I began to think of how to apply this in other areas of my life as well.
The nasty email at work? An opportunity to let the woman know I see her dismay.
The student who failed another test? An opportunity to re-evaluate my teaching approach.
The prices at the grocery store? An opportunity to be thankful for my job and donate to the food pantry.
The possibilities are endless.
When you shift your perspective from how I would approach the situation to asking how God would approach it, you do not excuse wrongdoings but you lighten the load on your spirit. You free yourself from the burden of how things “should” be and allow yourself to see possibility in struggle and sacrifice.
By living contrary to the human experience, we discover a shift in perspective that reveals God’s perfect plan.
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