It Does Matter
I can’t remember where I first heard this story, but it has a seasonal resonance . . .
It was the last day of pre-school before the Christmas holiday. As the little boy’s parents arrived to pick him up, he ran toward them with what was clearly a Christmas present clutched in his little hands. It was wrapped as only a pre-schooler can wrap such a thing.
Running, the little boy caught his foot on something. The present flew out of his arms, through the air, to hit the cement floor with an unmistakable ceramic crash. That little boy set up an inconsolable wail.
His father, weary and set on edge by the commotion, said, “C’mon son, it doesn’t matter. Really, it doesn’t matter.”
His mother, wiser in such matters, knelt and swept her son into her arms and said, “Oh, but it does matter, it matters a great deal.” And she wept with her son.
(Forgive the gender stereotypes. It is how the story came to me.)
It was also brought to mind by a similar, yet different, story included in a column last week by David Brooks. Here’s that one:
“Rabbi Elliot Kukla once described a woman with a brain injury who would sometimes fall to the floor. People around her would rush to immediately get her back on her feet, before she was quite ready. She told Kukla, ‘I think people rush to help me up because they are so uncomfortable with seeing an adult lying on the floor. But what I really need is for someone to get down on the ground with me.’
“Kukla pointed out that getting on the floor can be anxiety-producing and, when someone is in deep despair, even dangerous to the strongest caregiver. But sometimes you just get on the floor.”
While these stories stand alone, speaking to us of the capacity to hear and acknowledge suffering, they also speak to me of Jesus.
To draw again on the Letter to the Hebrews . . . “For we do not have a great high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4: 15 – 16)
In this season, there is fun and frivolity, but also grief for all that has been and is broken in our lives and in the world. Sometimes we make the father’s mistake, telling those who suffer — telling ourselves — whether in words or exasperated body language, “It doesn’t matter . . . get over it.”
But in Jesus Christ God says to us, “It does matter . . . it matters a great deal.” And, at Bethlehem, God gets down on the ground with us.
So friends, let us, as Hebrews counsels, “Approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” And let us extend, as best we are able, such grace to one another.