Wednesday, February 10, 2016

love, sacrifice, and a jar of beans



Well, it's begun...the annual tradition of putting beans in the jar for sacrifices we make for each other.

The first few days of it always frustrate me to death. I model it for the children. See, when we do something sacrificial out of love for someone, we can put in a bean. They get excited and start running to tell me about all of their little sacrifices- Mama! I picked up a crumb off the floor and it wasn't my crumb! Mama! I put my toys away! Mama! I flushed someone else's pee down the potty! Beans fly from the bowl to the jar. The bowl gets tipped over. Kids start fighting about whether something they have done "deserves" a bean or not. Honestly, I kind of dread it...the grabby hands, the beans everywhere, the constant interruptions to tell me why they need to put in another bean.

This morning, my day started too fast and left me running to catch up. I found myself at the table with my Bible while my children were dumping too much cereal into their bowls and spilling it all over the floor.

I decided to read the passage aloud instead of keeping it to myself.

Let us love. 
not in word or speech
but in truth and action.

We talked. What does it look like to love in action? What does it mean if we ignore a chance to help someone? What does it mean that Jesus laid down his life for us? And how should we respond?

A growing realization crept over me as we talked...that this annual flood of bean-related frustration is an opportunity for me to practice the very thing I'm preaching. Even the smallest sacrifice is an act of love. Who cares how many beans they put in? What if we actually run out of beans? Is there a scarcity of beans in the world? Is there a scarcity of love to be shown in action?

Nope. There isn't. And it isn't my job to limit the love they show to each other, even in the most seemingly insignificant ways. To limit the beans is to place restrictions on their expressions of God's love to each other...and that's not my role. That's not the mother I want to be. I want to be the mother who shows them that the length and breadth and height and depth of God's love is more than we can grasp...that it surrounds us and wraps us up like the very biggest, fuzzy blanket they can imagine.

I have trouble believing this myself, but I want them to believe it.

There's a wideness in God's mercy
Like the wideness of the sea
, the song says.

I can't really fathom God's love, but I can picture the sea, stretching as far as I can see in every direction, seemingly limitless.

God's mercy cannot be counted on beans, even if we had all the beans in the universe and a jar as big as the state of Texas.

And so, let them do their sacrifices. Let them practice love at every opportunity, and let them pile up the beans as high as they will go. This year, I'm sitting back and watching them learn to love each other in action and truth. I'm not limiting the beans.

And this year, the bean jar is as much for me as it is for them.