My favorite time of day is early morning. That might put me in the minority, but I look forward to that first sip of warm coffee as I sit in my little corner of the couch watching the light stream in through the windows.
Now, on this side of having kids, my mornings are a bit more…charged. The second my husband and I open the door to our girl’s room, the rigamarole begins. Before we put our hands on the doorknob, we sometimes exchange “the look.” Maybe you know the one. It’s the look of “Are you ready?” or maybe “Are you sure we can’t wait five more minutes?”
As we head in, our eldest daughter pops her head up from her bed and doesn’t miss a beat: “Mama, Dada. Hungry, Addy. Pancake, banana.” As I squat down to give her a morning squeeze, she passes right on by me and makes a beeline for the kitchen. She is consumed with the thought, “Food cannot come fast enough, I need it now,” and her requests for food play on repeat until her blush pink plate touches the table.
Early last week, I was in a meeting and someone read Luke 12:22-34 from The Message paraphrase by Eugene Peterson. It contains one of Jesus’s more famous teachings about anxiety and worry, how the birds and flowers don’t worry, so neither should we because we are of even more value to God.
The Message uses the word “fuss” instead of worry. And this is what felt heavy, but revealing to me about it: who fusses?! Everyone! (Despite how much we may pretend the contrary.) We fuss about the weather (Minnesota winters, anyone?). We fuss over our current lot in life, whether that be jobs, relationships, or overcommitted schedules. We can even fuss about preferences toward the everyday like food and clothing, as Luke 12 suggests. But the reason we do so is a little more complicated. The underlying reason we fuss is that we believe in just a tiny bit of karma, so when something doesn’t go our way, even though we’re doing all this good, fussing flows from the injustice that we feel has been committed. It’s a tiny, albeit fruitless attempt to right all wrongs…in our favor.
Jesus adds, “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, and not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works.”
Bringing this back to the daily routine of my insatiably hungry daughter: her perpetual morning fussing is a picture of how it’s built into all of us, from birth — this desire to self-justify. The angst-ridden cry of “How dare things not go right for me!”, at its core, is sourced by the belief that we deserve the good thing.
It reminded me of how Old Testament Israel — just days after the Lord freed them from slavery in Egypt — grumbles and complains about the menu, their leaders, the inhabitants of the promised land … the list goes on. In fact, it’s one way to summarize the entire story of Israel: through the lens of the fussing people of God, which, again, is fertilized by the belief that they were good people who deserved good things. Even after the law came in to help pump the brakes on their propensity to trust in themselves, they used it to throw gasoline onto the fire of their arrogance and misguided sense of self.
Yet, in the midst of all of this, the Lord, shockingly, unfairly, yet persistently meets their needs. He was preparing his people for a great unveiling. As they continued to fuss about their circumstances and miss (or forget) his small provisions, the Lord readied his people for his greatest provision, his Son, Jesus Christ. Like the loving Father He is, He gave us the very kingdom itself through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son. Our greatest worry, eternal separation from God, was satiated on the cross.
Maybe most important here is to see that the cross wasn’t a pedestal or a lectern for Jesus to simply tell us to try harder at not fussing. Instead, it was there that he bore our worst — our most strenuous complaints, our resistance to his offer of grace, and his insistence that salvation was a gift, not a trophy. On that dark day, when Israel grumbled about the True Manna of Jesus’s body itself, we all cried out with them, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” But it was through our acts of evil, that God worked for good and fed us with his grace.
Addy’s morning rituals, Israel’s wilderness wanderings, the Jews’ crucifying of Jesus — they’re all my story. And yours. The good news is that he feeds us anyway. But his plate isn’t blush pink like Addy’s, it’s blood red, full of unconditional love — the only power in the universe that can help turn our fussing into humble trust.