I’m not quite ready to leave the story of Cain. He continues to invade the forefront of my mind. Maybe if I pen the words responsible for the unrest, I can put Cain to bed, or at least move him into YOUR bedroom.
According to Genesis 4, Cain and Abel are the first siblings on the planet. Cain worked the garden and Abel tended the flocks. When it came time to bring their offerings to the Lord, Cain brought “some of the fruits” while Abel brought an offering from the “firstborn of his flock.” When the Lord gave favor to Abel’s offering and “the look” to Cain’s fruits, Cain grew jealously angry and murdered his brother.
I have never understood why Cain burned angry enough to commit first-degree, pre-meditated murder. God didn’t shun Cain or berate him or shame him. He did what good parents do when kids don’t finish cleaning the kitchen after dinner. He invited Cain to try again. He pointed out the dirty dishes still on the stove and the crumbs in the sink, instructing him to do better next time. I’m inclined to think God understood the intentions of Cain’s heart, which I have come to believe were pure and good and rooted in wanting to bring his very best to His Lord.
The first fruits of my strawberries are puny samples of what’s to come. I never try a new recipe for guests. I always experiment the first time on my family. (Hence the reason no one EVER eats roast at my house. It’s the one dish I cannot seem to consistently get right.) And trust me, this is the not the first draft of today’s blog!
The first of most things are rarely good enough to share. When bringing a gift to my Savior, I want it to present my very best. I want perfection. I want to bring the biggest, reddest, juiciest, and sweetest strawberries of the season. I want to bake the most perfectly delicious cheesecake with ginger-crumb crust and cranberry-maple topping. And I want to bring Him my very best words in the softest, sweetest, smiling-est tone instead of the short sarcastic silent sentences only my brain can hear.
But He isn’t interested in the “cleaned-up” version of me and my efforts.
He’s interested in the true, tangible, transparent me.
He’s interested in the child-like me coming to Him with my mediocre, messy, and muddled attempts of life.
And that’s why I cry every bloomin’ time I hear Faith Hill sing, “The Little Drummer Boy.” With great laughter, my husband reminds me, “Beverly, you know there was no drummer boy at the manger.” “There is in my manger,” I caustically retort. You see, that drummer boy presented the only gift he had to bring the newborn King, and the King smiled. So, perhaps, when I bring my first attempts, He grins. Perhaps even when my first fruits are poor samples of what is to come, He gobbles them up, grinning from ear-to-ear, like a good mom does the first time her child bakes (burns) cookies or tries her hand at laundry. Perhaps, Jesus doesn’t care about the final product as much as He cares about me sharing life with Him.
That’s good. Read it again.
Jesus doesn’t care about the final product as much as He cares about us
sharing our mediocre, messy, and muddled attempts at life.
Jesus isn’t interested in the cleaned-up version of our lives.
He wants to share life with the true, tangible, transparent us.
And that’s good news, because there’s bound to be a bunch of typos in this blog, I mean, in this life.
After spending Christmas with my brother and his family, I’ve been confronted with some ugliness in my soul. I’m embarrassed to admit that somewhere deep inside, I still want to be the favorite child. I’m still competing for a prize good parents would never offer. And if, after 45 years of life, I still want my parents approval, maybe it’s time to make some adjustments.
In God’s good timing, my reading took me to Genesis 4 where the fight between two siblings takes center stage. In the story of Cain and Abel, both brothers bring an offering to the Lord. He grants favor to only one. Note that Scripture never indicates that God rejected Cain’s offering. In fact, the language of Genesis 4:6 indicates that God was granting Cain a do-over.
But Cain didn’t hear grace. He didn’t hear love. He didn’t hear, “You’ll get it right next time.” Instead, he perceived “I’m a failure and Abel is better than me. The Father loves Abel more. I’ll always play second fiddle to him.” Maybe Cain even accepted lies like, “I’m always the screw-up. I’ll always be the one who makes the wrong choice. I’ll never be the greatest.”
The Bible doesn’t tell us why Cain’s soul remained in the downcast position. Perhaps he was born a pessimist or melancholy in spirit. Maybe his stature made him a step behind Abel or his intelligence lacked the quick wit of his younger sibling. Maybe Abel had better hair. Maybe Cain simply needed to grow up. Cain wasn’t a toddler needing parents to cheer him on as he learned to walk. Nor was he a school-ager who needed affirmation for his efforts at learning math facts. He wasn’t a teenager who still looked for his nervously smiling parents in his rear view mirror as he headed out on his first date. He was an adult, his own man, and as such shouldn’t need the approval of parental types affirming his place as the greatest in the family.
But then again, maybe the story of Cain tells us that we never outgrow our need to be cheered on and to be unconditionally loved. Maybe the child in us always longs for someone to think our life-scribbles are works of fine art. Maybe we never outgrow the need to have parental figures cheering for us in the stands as we miss yet another goal or lose another game.
And maybe it’s time to find that kind of parent in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Maybe it’s time to quit competing with siblings and neighbors and friends and framily and co-workers to be the best or the favorite. Maybe it’s time to rest in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus will not find favor with my all of my choices, but He will always grant me favor to breathe another day.
He will not always approve of my decisions, but He will always be approachable.
He will never award me the prize of the being the greatest, but He will forever lavish me with His grace.
I don’t think I will outgrow the need for approval, but I can grow into looking for it in the right place — the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.