When we were kids, we would stand chest to chest on playgrounds or neighborhood sidewalks with our hands military salute style to determine who was tallest. If our hands passed over peers’s hands or even better their heads, we felt good about ourselves as if we had anything at all to do with our growing limbs. We stood a little more stout and pretended that somehow the air was better at our heightened perspective. Then for added measure, we looked down on our friends, those whose hands rested under ours, perceiving the gap as even wider.
When I read her note, I metaphorically took my shoes off, sauntered up to my sister, and stood face to face, chest to chest, with her. I brought my hand up to my forehead before thrusting it out over her head. There was no hand bumping. There was no third party needed to decide the fraction of a centimeter difference. No, I was the clear winner. There was no question. She did not measure up. And I was angry with her because by now, after all this time, she should have been taller.
So why did I feel guilty?
Opening my journal, I knew God needed to deal with sin. I have come to learn that the queasiness in my stomach and the tightness in my chest is the Holy Spirit correcting, warning, or guiding me. My sister was wrong, and she was blaming me instead of taking responsibility for her own decisions. She was lying. She expected me to bow to her threats. But I did not take the bait. I was not supposed to give in. God told me that a long time ago, and I held fast. My sin, though, did not lie in my decision to stand firm. It rested in my measuring.
You see, Friend, I had taken her response to my obedience as an opportunity to become disgruntled with her, and the more I thought about her actions, the more hard hearted and resentful I became toward her. As ink filled page after page in my journal, God revealed to me the measuring stick I should have been using. He drew near to me. I looked up and saw his hand, one with the nail hole in it, thrust out way above my head, and I knew my sin. The chasm humbled me.
When I read my sister’s note, I knew God was answering my prayer, but instead of being grateful, I chose to ruminate on the part that exposed her sin and the distance between me and her. Pridefully, I elected to use a measure where I became the standard. God then reminded me that I never was or will be the good one. God reminded me that I do not and never will measure up. God reminded me that Jesus thought I was worth dying for anyway.
There were a lot of people Jesus upset with His teaching. They were absolutely wrong in how they treated Him. The blame they laid at His feet and the shouts to “crucify Him” were all sinful. But Jesus allowed the insults and stripes. He silently endured the ridicule and shaming. He accepted the consequences of their innumerable sin, and He willingly gave His life that they (and we) may come to be unified with the Father. And He did it with all grace and all mercy because of His great love for us.
When we wrong Him, He stands in the gap for us with our Father. I imagine Him baring his back. I imagine Him taking those nail pierced hands and rubbing His side. I imagine Him moving back His hair from his forehead. I imagine Him saying, “That debt was paid, remember?”
I see my life’s circumstances with fresh eyes, and I see my sister differently. I see someone who, like me, Jesus chose to love to death, and that makes her worth bringing down my hand and backing away because to Him we are equally small and in need of a risen Savior.
“Then He said to them, ‘Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.'” (Mark 4: 24, NKJV)