Cross my heart
Luke 23: 42-43 - Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
I have 6 nieces and nephews and I love them with everything I’ve got. They are the joy of my life, genuinely. And because of this they continually sucker me into taking them to places. Well to be honest I do it completely willingly because I love seeing their smiles and hearing the excitement in their voices when I’m taking them to do something they’ve never done before. But the story today focuses on my youngest nephew Micah. If any of my nieces and nephews is remotely aware of how cute they are, it’s him. If any of them know exactly what to say and how to say it to get out of trouble, it’s him. He knows exactly how gorgeous he is. On one occasion I had decided to take a solo trip with all the children to an ice cream shop not far from where my mum lives. And I’ll be honest with you nothing went to plan that day. The kids were being slow and fighting, it was boiling hot that day and the morning had been filled with tears and tantrums. But I persevered, I wasn’t going to be with them long and so I was determined to make this memory with them.
After finally getting all of them ready and utilising 10 minutes to get myself ready, I hear the loudest scream of ‘MICAH’ from the other kids I had ever heard. I sprint down the stairs 4 steps at a time and when I walked into the living room I will never forget what I saw. My nephew was absolutely soaking wet. From head to toe, t shirt, jeans, pants, socks and inside his shoes, wet. He had reached up to get a drink from plastic jug of water that had been left from breakfast on the dining table and not completely had his grip. Every single part of me wanted to scream and shout and vent my frustration at the situation, I was overwhelmed and hot and now we had been set back at least 20 minutes. But something happened to me when I looked at the little soaking wet boy in front of me. I could see his distress and the only thing I was concerned about was getting him out of his wet clothes and dry again, to a place where he felt safe and comfortable. My nieces helped me clean up the water and I took him upstairs to change his clothes. We didn’t say much to each other but every now and again I would give him a kiss or he would lean his head on my chest.
Once I had changed him, he was surprised to see I had put more going out clothes on him. He put his head up and in his tiny 3 year old voice he asked me… ‘Can I still come with you?’ My heart completely melted in this moment, I kissed him again, put a different pair of shoes on him and told him ‘of course you can’ when he asked me if I promised, I just responded with the words ‘cross my heart’.
I understand that this story is a little longer than the ones I usually tell at the start of these pieces but I felt like I needed to give you a full picture. How often in life do we fall for the lie that the messes we have made mean God can no longer take us to where he had planned? How often do we believe that decisions we have made mean we are no longer invited in God’s love and favour? That he is so cross and upset with what we have done that he is more than willing to leave us behind, soaking wet and distraught? Friends, I’m writing this today to tell you that is not our God. We are the joy of his existence and he loves us ferociously.
When I saw my nephew in the living room wet and crying, my thought wasn’t to shout at him or berate him. Was I frustrated? Absolutely. Could I have made a huge scene? Without doubt. But the first thing in my mind was to get him comfortable again and out of the situation that was causing him so much discomfort. I can promise you that God reacts to us in exactly the same way, our actions are not powerful enough to throw God’s plan to get us to our destination away. We can absolutely change the route with some of the decisions that we make but his ultimate goal for us remains the same. And that is to be with him forever.
We look at the verse today and for those of you reading that are unfamiliar with its origin, this conversation happened while Jesus Christ was hanging on a cross with a thief on one side and a murderer on the other. And in a sudden moment of clarity, the man on his right side realised that he could not save himself. A whole life of running from right, and striving and trying to do it all himself, he realised in one incredible moment that his answer was hung on a cross, right next to him. And our verse today relays the conversation that transpired "42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Just like that, he would spend eternity with the one that loved him so much he came down on a cross and hung next to him.
What I realised is that Jesus didn’t change his mind about that man and then let him into paradise once he had showed he was worth it. He didn’t have to prove it, he didn’t have to work hard, all he had to do was realise he couldn’t do it alone and that was it. It was always in Jesus’ plan to take him to paradise with him. And no amount of mess the criminal made was going to stop that. In exactly the same way that I never for a moment considered leaving my nephew behind because of his mess, I never thought for one second about not bringing him along with me because of the state he was in. My plan was always to change is clothes, and bring him with me. It may have taken longer, but the plan never changed, not even momentarily.
God is waiting for you to call out to Him. Go to Him, just like you are, right now, hanging on your cross. Being openly ridiculed for the messes you have made in your life, in the middle of suffering the consequences of your choices. Go to Him. Even if you’re soaking wet, uncomfortable, embarrassed and distraught. I promise you that His first concern is not how you have inconvenienced Him, but how He can help you, and love you back to the place that He always wanted you to be. If you don’t believe me, ask Him and see. Ask him about His promise. He’ll lean in and tell you that He hung on a cross to show you His heart.
We love you, agape x