I was a bit focused on hitting the correct notes instead of the made-up melody line I had created in my head. Perhaps that was the reason that even though the song had been on repeat on my computer for a week preparing for special music, I was just now realizing the words.
“…and I live by Him I killed.”
It is the scandalous gospel, wrapped in a sentence. That my sins nailed Him firm and by His grace He gave me life.
I’ve wished, many times, that our church would have communion every Sunday. It is one of the parts of the liturgical tradition that my heart craves. But I am thankful for the times we do celebrate the Table and there is a part of the Mennonite tradition that I love.
Communion is only a few times a year, but it is a glorious time. A time of repentance, of remembrance, reconciliation, and a time to wash feet.
Just like the first communion. And it is good.
One Sunday I was praying the communion prayer, “God, am I holding anything against anyone?” And God pointed at this dark spot in my heart. When I saw it, I recoiled. No, no. I wasn’t holding anything there. Of course not! How could I?
But after years and years of infertility and praying for a child, I was starting to build up resentment against my daughter. The daughter who repeatedly responded to my husband’s directions with respect and obedience, but tried to manipulate and defy me every time I turned around.
My eyes burned. Oh, God, take this out of me. Clean my heart up. What can I do, Lord, to keep from ever resenting her?
I’ve read all the books, you know. The ones about staying connected. The ones about parenting an adopted child. The ones about psychology and neonatal development. I know all the “whys” of her behavior. I know about searching for root issues. I know the mother-bond is the most precarious to reconstruct because it is such a base-need for a child, and when it gets broken there are so many physical and mental effects. I know all of that.
But knowledge doesn’t always give you the answers you need. When it comes down to it, all the child-psychology in the world won’t heal my daughter’s heart—or mine. There is only one way to truly live in wholeness, and that is to live in the grace of Him we killed.
I felt God’s answer that day, as I looked across the church at my daughter, who was still sitting, waiting for us to return with the bread and the cup. Love her.
How silly the answer seemed! Love her. Of course. I know. I need to love her. But what does that have to do with resentment? You can resent and love, both at the same time.
But God wasn’t talking about “love” the feeling, or even the choice. He was talking about “love” the action.
And I knew. I knew as I walked back toward her, what God was asking. I motioned her toward me as I passed the bench. “Where are we going, Mommy?” she asked.
“Somewhere special,” I whispered back.
We went to the line of bowls and towels. There weren’t any other children, but I took her with me anyway. Another lady asked me to join her and I said, “No, no. I am partnered with my daughter.”
I sat her down. “When Jesus was with His disciples, He gave them an example of servanthood. In those days, people walked in sandals on dusty roads. Their feet were often filthy. So, Jesus, even though He was worthy of being treated as a king, He got down and washed their feet for them. He told them to help clean each other up when they are dirty. To not be afraid of the messiest jobs, but to serve in love.”
I told her I was sorry for the times I was sharp and frustrated. I told her I wanted to wash her feet. Because of love, I wasn’t afraid of her dirt. Because of love, I would serve her.
Her eyes were big. When tears dripped into the bowl of water, I could feel her tense. “It’s okay, Mommy, you don’t have to,” she told me. “I should serve you instead.” I smiled through tears to reassure her. I washed her feet, almost as big as mine, with the chipped pink polish and line of dirt from her flip-flops.
She hugged me afterward. Wanted me to hold her. I sat on the bench through the rest of the service, my daughter snuggled up close to me. All the resentment was gone. Only love remained.
I don’t know if it meant much to her, to have her feet washed that day, but it rearranged my heart. Which, I realized, was just what God intended it to do.
In Christ’s death, He offered the chance to teach us grace. And in following, we live, true life, by the very One we killed.