Here we are in between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. In May we honor our mom’s and June we look up to our dad’s. Such beautiful traditions that help us to remember both where we came from and look forward to where we are going. I think a lot about my parents, now both crossed over. I’ve tried to draw from the lessons that they taught me as I venture into the realms of parenthood myself. It’s been a rocky road for me and my kids. Many lessons (both parents and child lessons) must be repeated over and over until sheer repetition works its way into the intricacies of our brains. Often the same lesson must be approached from multiple angles until it clicks.
I’ve tried to follow the patterns the Jesus laid out when teaching his disciples. He would tell stories over and over again – different stories but with similar meanings to help his followers understand. In the fourth chapter of Mark, I found a striking example of this. The chapter starts with the Parable of the Sower, a beautiful story which explores the whole range of human angst and joy in just a few short verses. Jesus explains how the Gospel can be outright rejected, accepted with reservations or embraced wholeheartedly and allowed to grow. Some of us have experienced one of these approaches; others, like myself, have run the gamut. I have a note in my Bible in the margin of this passage that reads, “the simplicity of a complicated gospel”. It is a crazy, complex idea that a perfect God would be willing to reach out to the likes of sinful mankind, yet it is very simple when we realize that it can be wrapped up in three words – “God is love” (1John 4:16).
To paraphrase scripture, Jesus is basically saying. “Listen up guys, this is easy, don’t try to complicate it” in verses 1-20 of chapter 4. Then he adds in the image of a lamp on a stand in verses 21-25 for a little extra clarity (God knows, quite literally, that I always need that extra clarity). But the boys are still confused. So He says, (excuse the paraphrase again) “Didn’t we just go over this? No problem, let me give you another example”. In verses 26-29, He tells the Parable of the Growing Seed. Still, it is not enough. Like the patient father that He is, He says, “Didn’t we just go over this? Alright, one more time.” Jesus adds in the Parable of the Mustard Seed. He has been telling them that understanding requires faith and this story drives that home. Verse 34 tells us that He knows the disciples will still need continual explanations of His parables and Jesus is more than willing to teach them with patience and love as any good parent would.
Now comes the test. Verses 35 -41 finds them out on the water when a storm comes up. They wake up Jesus and accuse Him of not caring about their safety. His answer is the classic parental response, “Didn’t we just go over this? Don’t you know yet that you can trust me?” Can’t you just see him shaking his head with a tired half smile as he prepares to smooth out the waves with a mere gesture of his hand?
It’s a familiar scene from a parental point of view. My parents did it for me and I try to do the same for my kids.
“Didn’t we just go over this? Alright let me show you again how to fold your t-shirts.”
“Didn’t we just go over this? Come here and let me help you make your bed.”
“Didn’t we just go over this? Bring the water to a boil, throw in the pasta, and add a sauce and cheese. There you go! I knew you could do it!”
And sometimes we have to yell things like “how many times do I have to tell you to clean the hair out of the sink!” But it’s all the same. Teaching lessons over and over because that is how we are wired to learn things. We’ll never learn without patient teachers. Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart but Jesus set us a great example. He says again and again, “Didn’t we just go over this? My Father is Love. Now stop trying to complicate it.”