Once when I was around 4 years old, I was disciplined, but I promise it was the cupcake’s fault. Or my brother’s. Just know that it wasn’t my fault – I can assure you of that.
I have a vivid memory of my dad moving into a new home. We had never experienced a new home before, so it was like new territory. There were places to explore and adventures to be had. My dad wanted to feed into that excitement, so he bought my twin brother and sister and me cupcakes to celebrate this new event. Things went south very quickly from there…
I remember my brother and I wrapping ourselves in this large orange blanket that we owned and deciding to roll around with sugar coursing through our veins and cupcakes still in hand, but we decided to do so in the living room (there was a rule not to eat cupcakes in this room). That was where we went wrong. As we rolled around the floor, I distinctly remember a large smudge of chocolate icing smearing across the brand new cream-colored carpet of this new home. We froze, stared at the stain, and crossed our little fingers, hoping that our dad didn’t find out.
My dad found out fairly quickly.
I still remember him on hands and knees trying to scrub this stain of our poor decision and the look that my brother and I gave each other – not the terror at an angry father, but at the guilt that we messed up.
I think about that experience every few years. Sometimes I wonder about it because it teaches some foundational truths that can so easily be overlooked. There are actually many lessons that can be deduced, but my mind always goes to one in particular – what would have been the perception of my father had a friend been visiting? It would very much have depended on what I presented. My dad handled that situation better than I would have now, I’m sure, but use this story to paint a picture for a moment.
Imagine that I had a friend over at the house. Imagine for a moment that my father was not in the immediate picture. Imagine if my friend walked into the home and I screamed at them, “there are cupcakes that my father bought for us and you can have one but don’t you dare take one into the living room! They’re a gift to you to enjoy, but I don’t think you’re capable of enjoying it!” If my friend were like me, I imagine they would have found a reason to make a quick exit.
In an alternate storyline, imagine if my friend walked into the home and I explained that my father is very excited to meet them. He bought them cupcakes to celebrate this new friendship and he wants them to know that they’re always welcome here. He will explain that, if they ever need anything at all, my dad will treat them like they are his own.
Now imagine that I find out that my friend is a foster child. They have no true home and they live in a bad situation. They’ve never known a parental figure that loved them. In fact, they would care more about the love of this Father than whatever gifts come from being in relationship with Him because the Love is where the good news is actually at.
However, if we look at the previous circumstance, I have yelled at my friend. I have taken a gift that my Father has given and stressed so many rules instead of the beauty of the gift – if enjoyed in the way it was mean to be enjoyed. Instead of love, they experience harshness. For all they know, that Father doesn’t even exist. I believe that friend would feel drawn in by hearing me say ‘I’ve got cupcakes and they’re delicious. You want to follow me into the kitchen and eat some with me!?’
Now, imagine that my Father walks in the door. My friend, from personal experience, may expect my dad to slam the door and scream at us for being too loud while he tries to watch the tv in peace. Instead, my Dad walks into the kitchen, pulls up a chair, and starts to ask my friend what his life is like – what does he like to do – how did he meet me – all the questions that show how much a person is invested in getting to know this child.
Well, I’m thrilled to say that’s the God that we serve. He has hope and love for the “foster children” in our lives, but we may get the honor of being the reason those children walk in the doors. We may be the reason that they meet our Father. We may be the reason they have the chance to hear of His good news – not only of cupcakes to celebrate any given occasion – but the love of Father who actually decides to adopt this friend of mine and make them a part of our family forever.
That friend may have baggage. They may have strange ideas of understanding the world that they were taught in their foster home. They may have anger issues or be full of themselves. They may have come from a family whose ideologies oppose our own. They may decide to mold their identity around some quality or characteristic that they have that makes us uncomfortable. They may even believe that they hate my Father and spew insults about Him as we spend time together in the neighborhood. But you know what’s beautiful about this? My words of defense won’t change that friend’s mind. The Love of my Father when He embraces them unlike they’ve ever experienced before is what convinces my friend that He is real, He loves them, and they have a place in our home. All other baggage can be healed once they’re in that door, praise God.
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff