Hannah asked me that question once. She asked it after I had disciplined her, while we were talking things out.
I had already explained why I was disciplining her (before I administered the discipline). But she was not warm to my rationale. She was pretty quiet. I knew her heart was closed toward me. I asked her for a hug and she was reluctant. I love her too much to let a root of bitterness grow between us, so I tried to get her to talk about why she was closed toward me. That's when she said, "Why would I want to hug someone who hurt me?"
REALLY good question. I thanked her for voicing it. I stopped and pondered it a little. I talked to her about doctors and shots and other medical intervention that is painful, but good. She sadly but respectfully countered that you don't have to hug your doctor. I smiled. Touche! This is true. But the point still stands: not all who inflict pain are unloving. Quite the opposite can be true.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. In preparation for the sermon on Hebrews 12:3-15, Hannah's question was ringing in my ears. Her question isn't just important for children and their parents, it's important for human beings and their God. It has to do with why we frequently question God's love. And Hebrews 12:3-15 has some powerful answers.
As Hannah's question was ringing in my ears, I prayed that God would give me some really concrete examples of how the one who hurts can be the one who loves.
Here are the two examples I shared on Sunday:
The corn example:
If corn has it too “easy” in early growth – too much rain – the roots will grow shallow and if a big storm comes with enough wind, the whole crop can be wiped out.
If, however, there is some toughness and challenge in the time of its early growth, the roots will form a corkscrew and drive down to the water table. Then when the hard winds blow, the crop will remain steadfast.
If a cornstalk could feel…what might it say to God (or to the farmer) about the tough and dry weather?
“God, I’m so THIRSTY! Don’t you love me?! Can’t you send some rain (or irrigation) so that my burning thirst will be quenched?”
The wise and loving God (or farmer) will say, “No. Not yet. I’m going to withhold from you and not answer your request, precisely because I do love you.”
The soil example:
Let’s say soil could feel…and talk.That soil wants to host some awesome growth and bear some sweet and wonderful fruit. Yes, indeed.
But that soil is hard and overly acidic and it's full of rocks and nasty weeds and thorns, and there are some stumps buried in it.
Then the farmer comes along with his plow (have you ever seen those tines on a roto-tiller?!). It’s enough to make you cringe and run away. And hitting just the top inch or two would be painful enough. But if that’s all that farmer did, it wouldn’t really do justice to that soil.
That soil needs some deep work. Deep digging…deep turning over – 6, 8, 10 inches! Rocks need to be dislodged and removed.
“Hey! It feels like you’re leaving me with big holes!”
Root systems of weeds and thorns need to be pulled up.
“Hey! It feels like you’re taking away some of my stability and security!”
You get the idea.And one more that I didn't share:
The war example:
Imagine you are in war. You and your commander (who is a seasoned war veteran, highly decorated – he has the scars and medals to prove it) are working your way toward enemy territory.
All of the sudden, your commander, who is walking about 3 feet to your right, hits you so hard in the arm with the butt of his gun that he breaks your arm and you fall to the ground. The shooting pain in your arm radiates through your whole body and you want to fire off some choice words at him, but you know better than to scream in enemy territory.
Then a few days ago, as I was reading the book of the month, I read this powerful section on p168 in the chapter on "Friendship":Your eyes blaze with anger at him as he carefully comes down close to you, beckoning you not to move a muscle. Before you can question and rail at him for his brutal stupidity, you see that your right foot rests about a foot away from the land mine that the same foot was about to step on if he hadn’t hit you that hard that very second.
When iron sharpens iron, it creates friction. When a friend wounds you, it hurts. ... There is a difference between hurting someone and harming someone. There is a difference between someone being loved and someone feeling loved. Jesus loved everyone well, and some people felt hurt. They were not harmed by him. They were loved by him. But they felt hurt. So they crucified him. If we don't understand this, then every time we feel hurt we will look for someone to blame and punish.So, how do you hug (i.e. love, stay "open" to) the one who (lovingly) hurts you? That one could be your parent (Prov 13:24; 22:15), your friend, spouse, home group leader, counselor (Ps. 141:5; Prov 27:5-6), or that one could be your Heavenly Father (Prov 3:11-12; Heb. 12:5-6). How do you stay open to their love when it hurts?
You do so by recognizing the difference between hurting and harming. You do so by believing the fact that God disciplines those he loves, for their good. You do so by embracing the fact that he corrects and reproves every child he accepts. And then, when you perceive (as hard as it is to "receive") that someone who loves you is hurting you in order to help you, you can accept it. Accept it as the reflection of True Father Love that it is. Accept it as the extension of your Heavenly Father's loving arms wrapping around you in love. And you just might be able to hug back.