I was upset with my son. He disobeyed me, and I had to restrict him. I was also annoyed 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," I said, jabbing the air with my finger, "more than it hurts you."
I don't know how many times I said that to our children while they were growing up. Millions of times, I'd bet. And every time the words flowed across my lips I knew from their eyes, they didn't believe me. But I understood their skepticism because each time I mouthed those words I could hear my mother, so many years before, say the same thing to me.
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.
But mom did a lot of things in those years while my sister, Andrea, and I were growing up...a lot of things which hurt her more than it ever hurt us. In 1955, when my father deserted us for another woman, single mothers had very few financial options available to them. Welfare as it is known today did not exist. We did not have food stamps, or WIC, or rent assistance. There was precious little governmental aid to put clothing on our backs or food on our table. As a young and attractive woman of 23, Mom could have packed us off to an orphanage and gone on with her life. But she didn't. Instead, she went to work. Not one job, but two.
For many years she struggled to raise us. Though Andrea and I never suspected it, we were dirt poor. But we always had food...even if it was spaghetti with ketchup. Or boiled potatoes and sour cream. And we always had clothing, even though we used cardboard to cover the holes on the bottoms of our shoes, or our cuffs rose several inches above our ankles. But I especially remember we always had warm arms to snuggle us and tuck us into bed at night... before she left us in the care of a baby-sitter and hurried off to her night job.
"This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you." As an adult 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 that 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 so (and please me as well) for me to say yes.
"This is going to hurt me...." Lately I find myself thinking of Another who spoke those words, at least in principle, so many centuries ago. And in reflecting, I wonder who can ever really understand His sacrifice? Who can ever fully grasp the horror of an absolutely holy God offering His back to the whip so that our sins might be forgiven? Who can really understand the heartache of the heavenly Father as He watches His creation shake a collective fist in His face and turn a deaf ear to His love? Can you and I ever hope, this side of eternity, to adequately understand, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son..."(John 3:16*); Or Romans 5:8, "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us"?
I never knew my sin hurt Him 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 which hammered spikes into His flesh. But in learning that truth I found myself... and still find myself... ever increasingly grateful for His love, His forgiveness and His sacrifice for me.
If the Lord is willing, my children will someday have children of their own. And I suspect that, as the need arises, they too will say to their offspring, "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you."
I can only pray that while doing so, they will ever be reminded of the One who said it most clearly on Calvary. And that in remembering, waves of thankfulness will ever wash across their hearts.