It is easier to hug a dirty child than a stiff one. The child who has been running through mud puddles all day long, who hears Mom or Dad calling, perks up, and heads filthy and full force into their waiting arms may transfer some dirt, but as his small pliable body willingly yields, a hug comes easy. Not so, with a stiff child, a child who refuses to come when called. A child who exhibits disrespect for her parents, disobeying their rules right in front of them. A child who considers the folks as “just not good enough”. Even if you manage to get your arms around them, you might as well be hugging a board.
In Isaiah 65:1-9, I hear The Lord lamenting a nation of stiff children. They ignore his offers of help, they ignore his voice, even though he stands with open arms ready to accept them, even though they are dirty, ready to hug them and to bless them. He knows the road they are traveling down will lead to destruction. But, no! They taunt him, run from him, yell, “Stay Away from Me!” I cannot help but see them as defiant teenagers.
As a parent I hurt for God. As a sinner, I realize how my rebellion and defiance have hurt God.
A friend of mine had a daughter who at sixteen packed a bag, left a note and disappeared for over a year. No phone calls, not one postcard, nada, nothing for over a year. My friend and her husband lived as she put it like dead people walking. After the initial tears and recriminations neither could chance allowing any emotion in their life, lest they destroy each other. They became wooden faxcimilies of real persons. At night they lay beside each other like wooden people, staring at the ceiling, not talking, not loving, consumed with the loss of their daughter. Their two other children received wooden care and learned to make themselves invisible at home, seeking tenderness from thankfully church friends and other family.
Then one day she called, broke down and cried, begged for forgiveness. They packed their bags and flew across the country to pick up their daughter who was no longer stiff, but covered in the mire that a life on the streets can foster. They wrapped her in their arms and took her home. But it took many years for this family to heal.
My friend said she never wanted to know the whole story of her daughter’s year on the streets. I can understand that. As I read this scripture again, I am reminded God does know. He sees. He crys out to us. He doesn’t close his eyes even when he wants to do nothing else. Fortunately, he doesn’t throw us away. Even though he let punishment come to the people of Israel, He did not desert them.
In my young adult years I walked away from God, ignored his people, ignored his Word, struck out with my suitcase packed and didn’t even leave him a note. I was one stiff child! Funny thing was as I entertained sin, I considered myself a more evolved “Christian”. Talk about delusional dangerous thinking, I flirted with it and know what, “I got burned.” God let me travel the road I chose, not seeking Him or His help. I pretty much let God know that I could handle my life by myself….Stiff, Stiff, Stiff child!!
Then when my whole world seemed to be crashing around me, I called home. I ran dirty and broken into His arms. He led me to His Word. He restored “all the years the locust had eaten”.
So when I read Isaiah 65:1-9, I see myself in every line, but even more than that I see Jesus taking all my dirt, filth and rebellion on his back for me. Jesus, always obedient, clean, accepting my sin as His own, so I could be free. I still get dirty, but I know the one who will wash the dirt away.
He didn’t fly across the country to pick me up and bring me home. He went to the Cross!