I wrote this more than 20 years ago. The sentiment is unchanged. This essay is part of my second book, Lessons Along the Journey.
Though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, whatever cost to Him. – C. S. Lewis
My son disobeyed, so I had to discipline him. But that bothered me because I wanted him to go to the ball game as much as he wanted to go. Maybe more so.
"This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you," I said, jabbing the air with my finger.
I don't know how many times I said that to our children while they were growing up in our home. Hundreds of times, I'd bet. And every time the words flowed across my lips, I knew from their eyes, they didn't believe me. I understood their skepticism because each time I mouthed those words I could hear my mother say the same thing to me so many years before.
I never believed her either. After all, I was the one restricted. Not her. I was the one disciplined. Not her. I was the one . . . always. Not her.
Mom did many things in those years while my sister, Andrea, and I were growing up . . . many things that hurt her more than they ever hurt us. In 1955, when our father deserted us for another woman, single mothers had little recourse to government aid. Welfare, as we know it today, didn’t exist. There were no food stamps, Medicaid, or rent assistance. Mom, an attractive twenty-eight-year-old woman, could have packed us off to an orphanage and gone on with her life. Instead, she went to work. Not one job, but two.
I didn’t know it then, but Mom struggled to raise us. After Albert left, our family hovered near poverty. Yet we always had food – even if it was spaghetti with ketchup, or boiled potatoes and butter. We always had clothing, even if we used cardboard to cover the holes in the bottoms of our shoes, and our cuffs rose above our ankles. And I especially remember we always had warm arms to snuggle us into bed at night . . . before she left us with a baby sitter and hurried off to her night job.
"This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you." I now understand the sentiment more than I ever could as a child. I understand because loving my children sometimes means sacrificing things important to me. Sometimes it means giving up my own time and money and dreams and desires so they might benefit. Sometimes it means giving when there is no more to give. And yes, sometimes it means saying no when it would please them – and please me – to say yes.
"This is going to hurt me . . . ."
That is why I often think of another Parent who spoke those words, at least in principle, so many centuries ago. Who can ever really understand His sacrifice? Who can fully grasp the horror of an absolutely holy God offering His back to the Roman whip so our sins could be forgiven? Who can really understand the heartache of the heavenly Father as He watched His creation shake a collective fist in His face and turn a deaf ear to His love? Can you and I ever hope to adequately understand texts such as Romans 5:8, "God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us"?
As I grew up, and for years after I left my mother’s home, I never knew my sin hurt my heavenly Father so much more than it hurt me. I never knew my rebellion bore so much more heavily on His shoulders than it ever did on mine. I never knew it was my guilt that hammered spikes into His flesh. But in learning those truths, I found myself – and still find myself – increasingly grateful for His love, His forgiveness, and His sacrifice for me.
Someday my children may have children of their own. And I suspect that, as the need arises, they too will say to their sons and daughters, "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you."
I can only pray that saying it will remind them of the King of Glory who said it most clearly on Golgotha – and waves of thankfulness will wash across their hearts.