The Blame Game

It has been a tough two weeks for me and my little trooper. Asthma found its way to creep into his healthy body and tackled him down again. Taking care of a sick child is not only physically daunting but also emotionally draining. Every time Timmy gets sick I end up doing the blame game, pointing all fingers at myself for my irresponsible parenting and defective genes.

Timmy got his asthma from me and being an asthmatic kid I know how tough it is to have those attacks. I remember spending birthdays in the hospital and getting confined almost every year. My mom took care of me like I’m a fragile bird with a broken wing. Now I’m doing the same except that it really breaks me up inside knowing that he inherited it from me. I find myself apologizing to him every time he’s sick. He doesn’t hear it but God does.

12252010631-001 When we found out he had Neonatal Lupus when he was born I cried buckets. I bawled in front of my husband and parents. I remember my dad comforting me saying that it’s good that we already know how to manage the disease because I’ve had it for years (17 to be exact) and we can take care of Timmy better. As good as it sounded back then to me it was just unbearable. Living with Lupus is not easy and I didn’t want my son to experience it.

By God’s grace, my rheumatologist (i.e. Lupus doctor) said that most Neonatal Lupus cases are transient. They go away once the child develops his own antibodies. She told me not to subject him to further tests. She added that Lupus rarely occurs in men so it could be that my little boy didn’t have it. She advised us to just watch out for symptoms, which I am very well-versed at, but other than that I had nothing to worry about.

10302011093_2 And then his asthma manifested at 10 months old. I jokingly told my husband that our son keeps getting all the bad stuff from me. But inside I was blaming myself again for his health issues and every time he gets an asthma attack the blame game happens all over again. I put on a strong face and double up on my nurturing to restore my son to good health but inside it’s a battle.

His recent attack two weeks ago was no different. Usually, Timmy gets better after a week of medication but this time he didn’t. He was given antibiotics but his cough and colds are still there (yes, up to now). We have lessened his activities so he can rest. I have placed work on hold just so I could attend to him. But his recovery has been slow. His pedia said that it will take 10 days for the antibiotics to fully kick in but she said that he sounded better and he’s on his way to recovery. He was given maintenance meds for 30 days to help speed up his healing.

Phototastic-6_23_2015_b251d9d1-12e5-4acc-9343-e660229fe571My heart broke each time Timmy said, “I feel sick.” I feel a stab inside my chest every time I hear his wheezing, hacking cough. This is one part of parenting that I’d gladly skip. It’s just too much to bear to see your child sick. Good thing, my son remained upbeat and active through it all. He would even encourage me saying, “Mommy, Jesus will heal me.” Or he would say, “Mommy, I feel better now because Jesus healed me.” To which my husband and I would reply happily, “Yes, He did!”

I take comfort in the fact that Jesus will heal me, too. That every time I feel broken and guilty about my son’s health condition He can restore and bring healing to my soul.

psalm103

I have been a recipient of God’s grace all my life. He has healed me time and time again. He forgives me for all the blame game I’ve done and He continuously gives me a new slate to start over once more. His track record of faithfulness in my life is impeccable. He has given me every reason to trust Him. He even “crowns me with love and tender mercies.” My all-knowing God is not too hard on me and I have no reason not to do the same.

So today, as I watch Timmy sleeping peacefully I choose to forgive myself. I choose to fix my eyes on Jesus, the One who saved me, forgave me, and restored me. I choose not to blame myself or anyone for my child’s health condition. I choose to believe in God’s power and ability to bring healing to my son. I choose to rest in His loving arms, knowing that He loves my son more than I could ever love him.

WP_20150616_20_16_14_Pro My son is His. His health is His. Whatever future health problems we’ll encounter I know that we will still remain His. And in that I take the most comfort knowing that He’ll be with us every single time. My prayer is that the next time any of my boys get sick that I’ll be able to stand firm and shun the lies of the enemy. That I will not play the blame game anymore but instead put all stakes on my God who is sovereign and true. I know He will give me the grace to do it and the strength to overcome it. He always comes through for me, always. 🙂

9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

So I encourage every mom out there who feels guilty every time their child gets sick, Jesus holds you by the hand. He doesn’t accuse us. He extends His grace to us every single day. He knows what we’re going through. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). We can count on Him to help us. All we need to do is believe and trust that He can. 🙂

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Named for a Purpose

As I was reading the Christmas story this morning, something about what God said to Joseph struck me. In his dream, an angel told him, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21).

joseph in a dreamImagine what it would be like if your child’s name will reveal the kind of future he will have. It will probably take a toll on the child and the parents because they will be pressured to live up to that name. As a mom, if my son will be named for a specific purpose I want it to be something grand with a huge impact on the future, philanthropic even. I want his purpose to be clear so I can help him achieve that.

Joseph must’ve felt honored and confused at that time. Honored because he will be the foster father of God’s Son. Confused because he didn’t know what “save his people from their sins” entailed. Save meant Jesus will do something noble and great but sins meant trouble. It meant dealing with people whose main preoccupation is doing all things wrong. As a parent, it must’ve been difficult to reconcile those words and make sense out of it.

nativity sceneI wonder how Joseph and Mary went about raising Jesus knowing what His purpose was early on. Were they surprised that Jesus loved to hang out with corrupt tax collectors, healed the servant of a violent centurion, and spent time with people no one really wanted to be identified with? Did they worry and plead with God that Jesus doesn’t get killed because of the miracles He did and the things He taught?

Modern-day parents like me would probably have anxiety attacks everyday if I knew that my son’s future will be closely connected with thieves and criminals. It doesn’t only take courage to let go of one’s child. It takes something greater, something only God can give. It takes love. Love that I could never understand from a parent’s point of view. Love that prioritizes other people more than your own. Love that chose me over His blameless Son.

jesus_friend_of_sinnersJesus knew what He came here for. From the time He was born in that manger to the moment He started ministering to other people, He already knew the end. It took more than courage to face that suffering and agony. It took selfless love for sinners to make a sinless Savior give His life to save us. And that’s the very thing we celebrate every Christmas, year after year.

It’s a celebration of gratitude for the One who was named for a purpose and we were part of that. We were the “people” referred to in that phrase and it was our “sins” that He needed to “save” us from. When Jesus walked on earth He had Your name and mine in mind. It was personal. It’s like Jesus was saying, “I’m here because of You, ______ (put your name there). I’ll give my life so you will be reconciled to the Father and won’t be separated from Him. After my death and resurrection, nothing will separate us anymore. Your sins will be forgiven and paid for.”

electrifying-jesus-crucifixion-pamela-johnsonJesus was God’s gift to mankind. He’s the giver and the gift. The magi may have brought Him the finest gold, frankincense, and myrrh but He already gave Himself to us from the time He was born. This is the reason why Christmas is all about giving. We were given so much when Jesus came here to save us. We were given a Savior. We were given a second chance. We were given exclusive access to the Father through His Son. We were given forgiveness and grace. And most of all, we were given eternal life.

As we celebrate Christmas, may we all take time to just thank our Savior for loving us with a kind of encompassing, inexplicable love that none of us deserve. I know my sins and I most certainly know that I don’t deserve Jesus’ love and sacrifice. But He did it anyway. And I am floored with the grace and forgiveness He extends to each one of us.

JesusHe was named Jesus BECAUSE He will save His people from their sins. Jesus was named for a purpose. He lived doing everything aligned with that purpose. He suffered, died, and rose again because that was what He came here for. And at its very core is His people—we are the WHY behind that WHAT.

Today, we remember that we have been given the greatest gift God could give us—His Son, Jesus Christ. You may have heard it time and again that He is the reason for the season because that’s the truth. Without Him, there will be no reason to celebrate. There will be no concept of gift giving. We wouldn’t know what it means to give to those who can’t give back and to receive something we don’t deserve.

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Thank You, Jesus. Thank You that You lived out Your purpose for us from the time You were born. I am forever grateful to be redeemed and saved by You. Thank You for giving us the reason to celebrate Christmas. I’m not really sure about the date You were born but nonetheless, I want to greet You HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I’m pretty sure that if there’s one place where people really know how to party, it’s in Heaven. 🙂 I know You can have a cosmic celebration anytime You want but I just want You to know my life is Yours and that’s the only thing I can give as a form of gratitude for the salvation and eternal life You’ve given me. Merry CHRISTmas! I love You! 🙂

A Letter to My Savior

Dear Jesus,

It’s Holy Week and I admit that it’s only around this time that I get to meditate on your crucifixion and resurrection. It doesn’t come naturally for me to recall what You’ve done. And for that I’m sorry. 😦 I know that a sacrifice like that deserves more than just a few days of recollection. It deserves a daily expression of gratitude. When I opened my Bible today, I asked You to highlight something for me about Your journey to Calvary and Luke 22:42-44 seemed to jump right out of the pages.

Luke 22:42-44 NIV

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

gethsemane

I tend to forget that You were as much human as we are when You came here on earth. You are both God and man. I admit that I have trivialized Your human side. The very thing that made us common, at least for a short while. Being human is hard, I can attest to that. I have never experienced a perfect life nor seen a perfect world the way Adam and Eve had. You know what it feels like to be pristine, pure, and perfect. Yet You chose to be dirty, filthy, and wretched like the rest of us.

I’ve had my own share of pain, suffering, and betrayal but not in the magnitude that You had Yours. Seeing what the future holds at that moment might have been a curse after all and not a blessing. You knew what You will go through. You could feel the stabbing betrayal of Your trusted friends, the seething pain of scourging, the tormenting anguish of being deserted by Your father, and the blinding darkness of death. You begged and cried for one last time for God to bail You out. Your plea was so intense that instead of beads of sweat, drops of blood fell on the ground.

portrait-of-jesus

Yet in that moment of bargaining, when You had every reason to give up, You yielded to Your Father’s will. You showed me that part of using Your free will is choosing to finish what You’ve started. It’s not about giving up in the middle of the battle. It’s about pressing on and going against fear, doubt, and hopelessness. It’s about seeing the victory at the end and not letting the blood and bruises stop You from fighting.

And You were fighting for us. You were fighting for me. You were thinking about my name and my future with You. You knew that if You walk away, we will be lost for good. Hope will never be a part of our vocabulary. We will never see the sense in saying “things will be better” because it will never be. It was a make or break negotiation for You. You had the option to impose Your will and say, “I can’t.” But You didn’t. You resolved in Your heart that You’d do it regardless.

Thank You, Jesus. Thank You for not giving up on mankind. Thank You for dying for us. Thank You for defeating death by coming back to life. Thank You for showing us that we have victory over sin and death because You did it for us. The cross and the empty tomb remind us that we are forgiven and redeemed. Your triumph gives us confidence that we can surpass anything because You’re alive and You’re with us.

stained glass heart

I may not say it that much but I want You to know that I’m very grateful for Your sacrifice. I know I’m one of Your far too many delinquent children and I’m humbled and up to now still baffled by Your encompassing love. Thank You for Your grace that never ends. Thank You that I can face each day full of hope because of who You are and what You’ve done. Thank You that You love with no questions nor limitations. And most of all thank You for giving Your life for me even if I don’t deserve it.

I love You, Jesus. I may have failed You so many times but this frail human being before You loves You with all her broken pieces. By Your blood You have restored all my shards, making a beautiful stained glass depicting a portrait of a redeemed life. Thank You, Jesus, for being my Savior, my Lord, and my everything. 🙂

Your Child,
Ivy

 

When the Heart Fails

Our family is no stranger to health challenges. For a barely three-year-old married couple, our health bouts can rival that of an old couple. From a complex pregnancy to our baby’s operation to his asthma attacks to my pneumonia confinement, these health hurdles had been nothing but a testament to God’s faithfulness and deliverance. By now, we should’ve figured out how God works. Then again, nothing can prepare you for what life throws at you.

Family love :)

Family love 🙂

A month ago, I experienced terrible chest pains. Being a patient with a high threshold for pain, I endured it for more than a week without saying a word. God was gracious to heal me but was also firm in convicting me to confess this to my husband Omar. One night, I told him everything and apologized for not telling it to him sooner. My husband felt sad and terrified because I could’ve had a heart attack during my silence. I felt worse because that was a stupid decision not to tell my husband what I was experiencing.

We then decided to see a cardiologist. We were given requests for an ECG and a chest x-ray. By then, the chest pains were gone. I saw my rheumatologist for a check up and was given an A for my good health. We were rejoicing and praising God for this news because it meant that my Lupus is inactive and being steroid-free is working for me!

A couple of weeks after, I started to notice the frequency of my shortness of breath. My palpitations were becoming more evident and small activities wore me down easily. We decided to have lab tests done—C3 to check Lupus activity, CBC, ECG, and chest x-ray. We had these done on a Monday. It’s important that I relate how that week unfolded for us.

On Wednesday, I had work and a presentation to deliver. During my presentation, I found myself catching my breath between sentences. Thankfully, I was able to finish it smoothly but I was so tired after. I was still at work when my husband sent me a text message saying that the results were out already. I checked it online and texted it to my Lupus doctor. She replied saying that it was okay no need to bring back the steroids but she added that I should see a cardio for the “septal wall ischemia” result of my ECG.

Being Google-dependent, I searched for the meaning of that phrase and found out that it meant that my heart was not getting enough oxygen. The next day, we went to the cardio my mom and sister recommended. He told us that it was not only “septal wall ischemia” but “anteroseptal wall ischemia,” meaning it was not only a wall but my entire heart is not getting enough oxygen. Simply put, it was bad news. He added that it was a precursor to a heart attack and I was given an emergency medicine to take if ever I experienced severe chest pain.

I was not given any medicine until I had undergone a battery of tests, which were all ordered to be done immediately. We had the 2D Echo done on Friday and the treadmill stress test on Saturday. I was scheduled to see my cardio again by Monday. With simply the emergency medicine in my wallet, I was like a walking time bomb. My husband couldn’t leave my side. When he had to go to the clinic to have my name listed, he had to lend the spare keys of our house to our neighbor in case I had a heart attack or extreme chest pain and I needed to be brought to the ER while he was away.

My boys :)

My boys 🙂

In our minds my heart was failing by the minute. Spiritually, our hearts were close to failing, too. It was a gruelling week full of unanswered questions and anxious waiting. One afternoon, my husband and I had a heart-to-heart talk (literally and figuratively) and we poured out all our fears. It broke my heart to hear how difficult it would be for the two of them if I’m gone. How hard it would be to explain to a two-year-old why mommy can’t be there when he cries out for her. How hard it would be for my husband to raise a toddler alone.

We surrendered all our fears and worries to the God whose heart never fails. One of the most important things we’ve learned from our past experiences is that our God has a steady loving heart that never falters. If there is one thing constant about God, it is HIS LOVE. His love for us moved Him to heal and deliver our family time and time again. This new ordeal is no different. We knew in our frail and failing hearts that we can only count on Him who loves us unconditionally.

My little angel :)

My little angel 🙂

We embraced the situation knowing that God already had the answers and He is in full control of our lives. I had peace knowing that our God is unchanging. The same God who has sustained me for 15 years with Lupus is the same God who will sustain me with this lifetime Ischemia. If 15 years is not enough as proof of His faithfulness then I don’t know what is. We went to the doctor confident in the fact that our God has already prepared the way before us.

Upon seeing my cardio, we were given the best news we could ever ask for. My 2D Echo was normal indicating no sign of Lupus activity in the heart. My stress test was normal, too! Yes, I still have Ischemia. It is a heart injury that does not heal. But God in His grace and mercy made it a non-threatening one. I was given maintenance medicine to address my palpitations and shortness of breath. This medicine will open the blood vessels in my heart and allow more oxygen to flow. The blocks are still there but they are manageable.

CrossHeart1

We let out the most audible sigh of relief upon hearing the results. We rejoiced and thanked God for His goodness and faithfulness. We knew that although we were concerned with my physical heart, God was more concerned with our spiritual hearts. He held our fragile hearts and enveloped it with his peace, assuring us all the time that He is sovereign. God did not allow our hearts to fail, He strengthened it even more. We are still in awe at how God delivered us from this ordeal.

I am grateful to God whose love knows no bounds. 🙂 I am grateful to my husband who supported me all throughout this trial. Being married to him is a daily expression of God’s grace and unfailing love. This experience brought us closer together and it made me fall in love with him even more. 🙂 I am grateful to my little boy who makes me laugh in the midst of pain. I am grateful to our family and friends who partnered with us in prayer. Above all, I am grateful to be alive. In those moments of waiting, God made me realize that He truly holds our lives in His hand and it is the best place to be in. 🙂

God'shand

That week, God comforted me through His Word in Psalm 16:

Psalm 16

Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

ALL GLORY AND PRAISE TO OUR GOD WHOSE LOVE FOR US NEVER FAILS AND WHOSE MERCIES ARE INDEED NEW EVERY MORNING. 🙂

The Controversial Christian

When someone says he or she is a Christian, it can elicit two reactions from people—either they back off knowing that you will spit something judgmental about them or they will be drawn to you because they know you won’t judge them, instead you will love them.

Lately I’ve been reading the book UnChristian and listening to the podcast of Andy Stanley’s series entitled Christian. So you see I’ve been bombarded with truth that cut so deep it made my heart so heavy with undeniable realities. I had to go back and look at the life of Jesus, the one true authentic model for Christians. I realized that if so-called Christians lived the way Jesus lived and loved the way Jesus loved things would’ve turned out differently.

Jesus loved the “taboo” people. His love was radical back then when He dined with the hated tax collectors. His love was scandalous when He graciously dealt with the woman caught in adultery. He was what you would call a controversial Christian. If He lived in the 20th century, He would dine with corrupt government officials, talk with the young prostitute on the street, and listen to the misunderstood homosexual. Jesus would not fear being seen with them because He only had one thing in mind—He loved them.

I was won over to Christianity because of love. Someone showed extraordinary judgment-free love to me. I didn’t become a Christian because a person told me that I’ll burn in hell. In fact, I would never even consider being one if that was the selling point. I came face to face with a loving Savior who assured me that He loves me, He knows ALL my sins but doesn’t judge me, He forgives me, and He wants me to be reconciled with Him. The love that Jesus offers is so outrageous that I couldn’t help but say YES, I ACCEPT YOUR LOVE AND I WANT TO FOLLOW YOU.

Being a Christian is simply being a follower of Jesus. In fact, being a Christian was a derogatory term during the time of the disciples. It was a term used by non-Jesus followers to call the Jesus followers. It’s like calling someone nigger instead of saying he’s African-American. Jesus called His followers DISCIPLES. When you’re a disciple, you follow what your teacher or master tells you. It’s like for your every move, you will consult Him. For example, if someone betrays you, you will ask Jesus what He would do and you’ll do it. It will be like that for every situation.

Imagine how things will change if Christians stopped being mere Christians and become authentic disciples of Jesus Christ. There is only one distinguishing mark that people will recognize when a person is a follower of Jesus. With emphasis Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Our love should be so out of this world that people from the outside couldn’t help but be drawn and take a peek at what’s going on in our families and communities. Our love should be so welcoming that people don’t feel ashamed to ask for advice because they know you’ll speak the truth in love.

It was the revolutionary love of Jesus that overthrew the worship of power tripping Greek and Roman gods. In Jesus, people knew a God who loves, accepts, and reaches out. His love was beautifully controversial and 1st century disciples exhibited that. Believers of Jesus grew by the thousands each day during that time. The way they loved each other, cared for the sick, assisted the widows and orphans, restored the lost back to Jesus were astounding. His love was the most sensational news the world has ever known and it is only by this kind of love that all Christians should be known for.

My desire for all professing Christians, including myself is that we’ll be known for how we love and not for how we hate. Christians are often known to be against something instead of being for something. Jesus’ raw pure love should be the standard we all follow. If I’ll be known as a Christian I want to be the radical, scandalous, controversial one—much like my Master and Savior.

When being human is too much to bear

Sometimes God opens our eyes to things that we haven’t seen or noticed before. I’ve read about the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection many times. I’ve watched movies about it, too. I decided to read something about the life of Jesus in Matthew 26—particularly on the night He was betrayed and arrested. I know these stories by heart (or so I thought) but this time God opened my eyes to details that I haven’t paid much attention to. I felt like I was an intruder looking into the very heart of Jesus at this very crucial time in His life. I think at this point, Jesus must’ve thought that being human was just too much to bear.

Bailing out

There are times when our problems seem insurmountable that we want to bail out on life. Jesus had the best of both worlds—being God and man—when He came here up until the point when it seemed to have turned into a curse. Being God, He knew what would happen to Him. He had already seen it beforehand. But being human made all the pain real and palpable. Jesus knew that this had to happen. He knew that with God’s power, He could also turn things around. And so He did what most of us would do. He bargained, pleaded, cried, wrestled, and begged that His Father would bail Him out of this situation. Jesus went to His Dad three times.

It must’ve been so wrenching to know that His Father could deliver Him but refused to. It must’ve been even more tormenting to know that He could do it Himself! And yet He didn’t do it because He knew that He had to submit to the will of His Father. He was already seeing visions of the taunting, scourging, and nailing. In a few moments, it would be a reality. I could feel His heart pounding wildly, His legs feeling wobbly, and His entire body trembling. Like any human being He must’ve wanted to escape and run away. Instead, He struggled to restrain His power and give in to His human weakness of feeling every hurt, every distress, and every pain.

On a personal level, that blew my mind. All these restraint and refusal to exercise His power to spare Himself from suffering was beyond my comprehension. He was the only way God can fulfil His will of saving mankind from sin. I am part of that mankind. I know that I do not deserve that kind of sacrifice. It’s like putting an innocent blameless baby to die on my behalf because I’ve been so bad. That’s insanely unfair, absolutely cruel, and extremely inhuman. But who would be willing to do that anyway? Only a Savior whose love is beyond measure, whose compassion is endless, and whose mercy is overflowing can sacrifice Himself for someone as proud and selfish as I am. He bailed me out of the penalty for my sins. He bailed all of us out.

Betrayal

When our friend spills our secret we get furious. When someone talks behind our backs we feel betrayed. No one has ever experienced the worst kind of betrayal apart from Jesus. He trusted 12 men, taught them, loved them, and poured His life on them. But when He needed them most they failed Him. During those times when Jesus went back and forth to His Father to spare Him from His ordeal, He asked some of them to keep watch and wait. His once formidable BFFs became sleeping beauties. And yes, they also fell asleep three times. My thought balloon was, “How can You rely on friends who sleep on You? How can You feel secure knowing that anytime soldiers will come and they won’t even be awake to warn You?” I mean true friends warn you when danger is coming, right? Well, not this time.

Despite the hurt and disappointment Jesus went on to face His captors. With them is one of the 12 named Judas. What really surprised me was Jesus’ statement when He saw him, “Friend, do what you came for.” Jesus for the last time called Judas friend. Even if Judas equated his friendship with Him with 30 pieces of silver, Jesus still saw him as His friend.

When tension started to build up, the rest of the 11 fled right on cue. Physical pain can be tolerated but emotional pain can kill you from within. Jesus must’ve felt so alone and deserted. His heart was broken into pieces by daggers of betrayal and disloyalty. Like a cruel cherry on top, Peter—one of His most trusted disciples—denied knowing Him three times. As if to silently communicate the hurt, here’s an account of what Jesus did.

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter (emphasis mine). Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:60-62)

Jesus never said “I told you so.” He looked at Peter with bittersweet eyes of hurt and love. He knew that Peter wouldn’t stand up for Him. It was just too much to see it before His very eyes. But He understood and He understood lovingly. He knew that being human meant He would experience every form of betrayal. Even at this point when being human was too much to bear Jesus didn’t give up. He pressed on and continued what He needed to do for you and me. He gave His life not because we deserve it but because He loves us unconditionally. Some people can’t believe that the way to be reconciled with God is that easy; that all one needs to do is trust Jesus and the sacrifice He did on the cross. They find it too easy that someone bailed them out of sin just like that.

You see, it was not easy for Jesus. He felt every seething whip, blow, curse, slap, spit, and every excruciating pain possible. He also felt every stab at His heart every single time. In the midst of all these, He had your name and your face in mind. He was looking forward to that day when the barrier of sin won’t hinder you and me from coming to Him because He paid it all. Jesus opened His arms for us on that cross. He died with open arms, giving His all—His life and even His dignity as a human being.

Three days and more than two thousand years after, He still extends His arms wide open. In Jesus’ eyes, sin and death are no longer barriers to our relationship with Him. We can come to Him with confidence because He didn’t bail out on us; He kept His Word and didn’t betray us. At times when being human is too much to bear, let Jesus bear it for you. He is our God and Savior who knows, feels, and understands. He knew grief so that He can comfort us. He knew distress so that He can rescue us. He knew every human emotion so He can respond to it with empathy and compassion. His humanity and divinity makes Him the only comforter and friend we can truly depend on.

What’s your first Christmas like, God?

I wonder what it feels like to be in your shoes on that first Christmas. Sure the heavens were rejoicing when Jesus was born. The angels were probably in awe at the sight of their God in human form. For the longest time, they were blinded by the brightness and grandeur of Jesus that they can’t even look at Him. Then all of a sudden they witnessed His transformation—He became flesh and blood, conceived in a woman’s womb, born naked and helpless—just like any human being. It must be astounding and even incomprehensible to see the Majestic One become an ordinary man.

How about You, God? How did You feel? Now that I’m a mom, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to be separated from Your Son for the first time. Did You experience separation anxiety? You probably had a bittersweet Christmas. I guess that’s it. Bittersweet. You had to sacrifice being separated from Your Son in order to achieve something greater. You sent Him for one reason as it says in Your Word—to save His people from their sins. You know, I even checked different Bible versions of Matthew 1: 21 to see if that’s really the only translation for the meaning of the name Jesus. This is actually the first time that the translations I read said exactly the same thing: “She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

Jesus could’ve come to restore justice on earth, to promote peace, to show people how to love, or even to teach Your good and perfect commands. But those things pale in comparison to the gravity and urgency of dealing with our sin—the very thing that destroys us and pulls us away from You. It is for this reason that the first Christmas had to happen. It is for this reason that Your first bittersweet Christmas had to happen. I can only imagine how much You wanted to cradle baby Jesus in Your arms to keep Him warm; how You wanted to pacify Him when He was crying; how You wanted to make things easier for Him—but then again, You exercised divine restraint and allowed things to unfold in accordance to Your appointed will and time.

That’s unfathomable love, God! I can’t wrap my mind around it! It must’ve killed you inside to see one door shut after another when Joseph and Mary were looking for a place to stay for the night. You could’ve easily created a palace or a five-star hotel in the middle of Bethlehem and show everyone how a King is supposed to be treated. But You didn’t. You restrained yourself so that people can see that their Savior was born in a lowly place and that their Savior knows what it feels like to have nothing. He can empathize.

You thought of us when we weren’t even thinking of You. You loved us unconditionally and You wanted us to be reconciled to You. But You had to get rid of that sin barrier that separated us from You. You bridged that gap through the birth, death, and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. He was Your precious One. You sacrificed all the comfort and protection that Your Son could’ve had while he was here on earth. All because He had to fulfil His purpose “to save his people from their sins”.

You didn’t want to be Jesus’ Father alone, You wanted to be our Father as well. With Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, You opened the door for us to be Your children. All we need to do is believe that what He did is the only payment for our sins and that He is the only way for us to be reconciled to You. With that faith comes the assurance that we’ll be in heaven someday and that You will be there to receive us not because we were good enough but because Someone loved us enough to sacrifice His life for us. We will stand before You stripped of any merit but only with the merits of Jesus Christ. We can’t boast about anything because we didn’t do anything. Your Son did everything.

On that first Christmas, You set the greatest example of giving the BEST GIFT for mankind—the life of Your Son. You celebrated that Christmas with a sacrifice. You celebrated it with so much love for us that the mere thought that we’ll be reconciled to You marked Christmas as the new beginning for mankind. It must be really tough, God. I can never thank You enough for making that exchange gift for us—Jesus’ birth and death for our eternal life. Thank You that the significance of Christmas is far beyond the gifts, food, and merrymaking. Christmas is rooted in Your heart where all love and acceptance abound. It is found in the life You gave and the life we gained.

Thank You, God that Christmas is here because of You. Thank You for putting CHRIST in the center of the celebration. Merry Christmas, Jesus. I can never love You the way You love me. Nonetheless, I want to let You know that I love You more than anything else in this world. You are the ONLY REASON for the season. 🙂