I am a routine person. I get up at roughly the same time each morning, and work on my sermon at the same times each week. It’s good to have routines in life, and it’s also good to shake things up from time to time. For example, as a general rule it’s good to be a healthy eater, but every once in a while, it’s okay to have a great big bowl of ice cream. Or, for another example, every Thursday I send out my Thursday Thoughts by email for our church family, and post them on my blog for anyone else who wants to read them. But next week, I will be in Hawaii, not writing or emailing or posting anything, and you will all have an extra five minutes to read the back of the cereal box or something.
We will be in Hawaii because Carey and I are celebrating (a few months late) 20 years of marriage, and we are bringing our 3 children along with us. We’re very excited, but also a little stressed, because everything is more complicated with kids. It wasn’t an easy decision to bring them. Life has been demanding this past year, and it was pretty appealing to think about just the two of us lying on a beach somewhere. For a long time, I was leaning toward leaving them home, because, after all, it’s 20 years of marriage! It seemed like a romantic couple’s trip would be the most appropriate way to celebrate. Parenting is hard, and as much as we love our kids, we don’t get a lot of breaks from them.
On the other hand, our kids have had a hard year, too. And they are growing up so fast. Our opportunities to make memories with them are quickly slipping away. We began to feel more and more like it would be too hard to go have an awesome experience and then come home and tell them about everything they had missed out on. We looked at the numbers and realized that with the money left over from selling our home on the Oregon Coast, we could afford one good vacation, but not two. There wasn’t going to be a romantic couple’s trip and a family memories trip. In the end, we decided that our children have been such a major part of our 20 years together that they deserved to be in on the celebration. So we are all going together.
Having kids is scary. I heard someone say once it’s like having a piece of your heart wandering around outside of your body. When we have children, we open ourselves up to all kinds of new joys and new heartaches. In a former life, before kids, we lived in Fort Collins, Colorado. I had a beautiful young wife, a really cool dog, a red ’89 Jeep Cherokee, a good pair of hiking boots, and an annual pass to Rocky Mountain National Park. Life was simple and sweet. Then we moved to the Oregon Coast and had 3 children over the next 7 years, and life became complicated, and sweeter, and harder. But we have never regretted it. What we have lost is nothing compared to what we have gained. We gladly give everything we have for the sake of our children, and given the choice we would do it all again.
And so it is with God. Once, long ago, before the universe existed, God was alone. But He wasn’t lonely. For all eternity, God exists in perfect loving communion as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Within the Trinity there is love and joy and peace and humility and glory and beauty. God was and is happier than we can fathom, perfect and complete, lacking nothing. Life, for God, was simple and sweet.
And yet God chose to create. God spoke the universe into existence, imagined and engineered atoms and molecules, galaxies and stars and planets. He made the sun and the moon, sky and land and water, plants and animals. Then, as the pinnacle of His creation, He decided to make people, a creature in His image, capable of relationship with Him, capable of love, capable of moral choices. That’s when things got complicated.
Creating humanity opened up a world of joy and heartache for God that would never have been possible if He had chosen to keep things simple. It opened up the door to sin and rebellion and abuse and addiction. His own creation, which He had poured Himself into, was now capable of turning its back on Him, which it did. This choice required God to love us with supernatural patience and faithfulness. It caused Him grief and sorrow. It cost Him his Son.
This past week was Easter week. We spent a lot of time talking about everything Jesus went through during the last week of His life: rejection and betrayal, physical suffering and spiritual agony. All things that could have been avoided if He had remained safe in the company of the Father and the Spirit. Christ’s suffering and death was the cost of that decision to take the love that existed in the Trinity and share it, to create something and then give Himself away to it.
But He has never regretted it. Hebrews 12:3 says, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him, for the joy that awaited Him on the other side. He looked ahead to the day He would be seated at His Father’s side, surrounded by billions of adopted brothers and sisters, rejoicing together for all of eternity. He looked forward to our joy in Him and His joy in us, and he knew it was worth it. It was worth it to create. It was worth it to enter the messiness of relationship. It was worth it to make sacrifices, even the ultimate sacrifice. Because in the end, even though He didn’t need us, even though He was perfectly happy without us, He couldn’t imagine not sharing His life with us. I’m so glad He made that choice, and I’m challenged by His example to choose generosity and love over selfishness and comfort. Have a great week (or two!), and I’ll let you know how things go in Hawaii.