It begins with inappropriate words uttered over the breakfast table, followed by a discussion of those inappropriate words, followed by a retraction of the promised ice cream outing to Ivanna Cone scheduled for that evening. Then here’s the crying and the wailing and the gnashing of teeth (by both child and mother).
And the next thing I know, the nativity has been rearranged on the coffee table.
Baby Jesus sits in the very center, but instead of the tiny clay wise men and lambs and Joseph and Mary gazing down at him in a close-knit circle of adoration, Rowan has moved each of them to the far corners and edges of the table, with their backs turned to Jesus.
Every lamb, every goat, every angel is turned away from Emmanuel.
“You know, honey,” I say to my seven-year-old son, Rowan, when I spot the new arrangement, “even when you turn your back on Jesus, he still lives in your heart.”
I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe a revelation of sorts? Maybe I expected Rowan to look up at me all gracious and repentant, a flash of illumination written across his face. It’s Advent, after all. Isn’t Advent supposed to be pretty and perfect? All glittery and shiny and beautiful? A season of anticipation and awaiting and love?
But he didn’t. Rowan turned his back on me, too, and walked away.
There I was, poised to point my finger and start ranting and raving, when I caught another glimpse of those wise men and the sheep turned away from Jesus. And it hit me hard. I do it, too. I’m no different than Rowan. I turn my back on Jesus, too. I walk away from him. I can’t point my finger at Rowan without first pointing at myself.
In the end, the lesson I intended for Rowan is really meant for me. I need the reminder, too – that Jesus is Emmanuel. God with us. No matter what.
I need to remember that even when I turn my back on him, he still lives in my heart. He doesn’t abandon me. He doesn’t walk the other way.
God with us.
Michelle writes stories about finding and keeping faith in the everyday. A native New Englander, now living in Nebraska, where she discovered the great plains, grasshoppers the size of Cornish Hens and God. Michelle married to Brad, a man who reads Moby Dick for fun, and mom to contemplative Noah and rambunctious Rowan.
You can find Michelle at her blog Michelle DeRusha
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