The other night while we were driving around, my 7 year old L.E. piped up in the back seat and said, ìOh look, thereís one of those Happy Him doughnut places.î
Since weíve only lived in Nashville for a few months, I thought it might be possible that there was in fact a doughnut place called ìHappy Him.î Itís a fairly good description of the general doughnut audience (Him) and how you want to leave them after theyíve sampled your wares (Happy).
My daughter continued, ìWe have Happy Him at school sometimes.î Inside I thought, this wasnít an isolated incident. Happy Him was at her school. Good to know. Made sense.
But then we drove by a Krispy Kreme and I realized what was happening. The swirly cursive (known in graphic circles as ìdoughnut font,î comic sansí frivolous cousin) had confused L.E. when she read it. There was no Happy Him.
I love conversations like that and hearing about things sheís experiencing at school. Those stories are fun, but sometimes there are stories about school that you donít want to hear.
The other day, L.E. was on the playground at recess and couldnít find her best friend. It takes first grade little girls about 7 minutes to become best friends and L.E. already had an elaborate song/handshake worked out with her new friend. She found her in the corner of the playground with other two little girls.
In that innocent, Iím just a kid way that only 7 year olds can pull off, she said, ìCan I play with you?î to the three little girls. One girl turned to her, looked her over and said, ìNo, not today.î
As a dad, that kind of thing kills you.
You hate to think of the L.E. in your family walking back to a worn out jump rope and maybe pretending she wasnít crying out on the playground.
And this is first grade. Chances are we are not done with this type of moment.
In sixth grade, someone wonít sit with you at lunch.
In middle school, no one might come to your birthday party.
In high school, your invitation to the dance never came or you didnít measure up for that sports team.
In college, I got rejected from every single fraternity at Samford University. I remember watching the bottom of my door hoping an invitation would magically slide under.
You get older and the person you love doesnít love you back. The job you wanted doesnít want you back. The parent who by very nature of the title is supposed to care about you, doesnít care back.
There are good moments, thousands of good moments, but we tend to obsess and amplify the handful of bad ones we experience. Though the last few paragraphs sounded a little like lyrics from a Counting Crows song, those are the dents in our universe that often come to incorrectly define us. The moments where no one wanted to play with us on the playground.
And then we wonder why itís so hard to believe Jesus loves us.
We spend years, maybe even decades, learning how the world works. There is give and take. Things have to balance out. You earn your keep. You made your bed, now sleep in it. There is cause and effect. A + B = C.
And then there is Jesus, so opposite of everything weíve been led to believe about this planet. He doesnít turn away from the people no one plays with, he actually seeks them out. He doesnít just accept them, he searches for them. He tells stories where the scoundrel gets a party. He shares tales where the single sheep is sought after. He turns away angry mobs and offers hope to adulterers.
This baffled me for so long. I knew Jesus didnít come to get the perfect people. Even in my confusion, I understood that perfection wasnít possible. But I thought he was here to get the good people. On the bus to heaven, the good people got to ride on the inside while us sinners had to cling to the outside. And not in a cool way on the roof like in Teen Wolf 1, which is arguably the better of the two Teen Wolf films. I was clinging to the outside of the bus. (It might say something about my understanding of heaven that it involves a ride on a bus. Have you ever been on a public bus and thought, ìThis seems a lot like heaven. So we use the bathroom 4 feet from where Iím sitting? This is heaven!î)
But in Matthew 9, we see Jesus flip everything upside down. The Pharisees see him hanging out with some of the people no one would play with and they ask the disciples, ìWhy does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ësinnersí?î
On hearing this, Jesus said, ìIt is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.î He continues by adding, ìfor I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.î
Heís here for us. Heís not looking for the people who have it all together. Heís not searching out the perfect. The mom who never makes a mistake, the coworker who can do no wrong, the college student who is flawless. Heís here for the sick and the broken and the sinners.
Why? Because heís love. Heís grace. Heís perfect. And though sometimes it feels impossible, though sometimes it seems too good to be true, though the mechanics of this world feel so counter, the truth is, Jesus always plays with the kids no one else plays with on the playground.