You’ll find out as much about the human condition from watching siblings around the breakfast table as from reading a 1000 page anthropology book.
“Mom, you gave Tommy a bigger pancake!”
“Dad, can I pour the syrup this time? Please! Last time you let Isabel do it.”
“No fair, Mom! Jessica got way more juice than I did.”
“Dad, why can’t I sit on your lap like Patrick does?”
Who are Tommy, Isabel, Jessica, and Patrick? They are the enemy. They are us. Siblings in rivalry. Humans jockeying for position. Little would-be gods who express our shared tragic destiny:
*We must justify our existence.
*We must stand out.
*We must matter more than others.
*We must outperform, outmaneuver, out-special others.
When we do that, when we rise higher in the social food chain, we can cling with a little more certainty to our precarious hold on the meaning of life.
What is sibling rivalry? The ABCs of the human condition. If Tommy gets more pancakes, Mom and Dad must love him more. If they love him more, I matter less. If I matter less, then do I even count?
The size of pancakes determines our basic human worth.
As we get older, we simply find more socially acceptable ways of getting bigger pancakes than Tommy’s. “We disguise our struggle by piling up figures in a bank book to reflect privately our sense of heroic worth. Or by having only a little better home in the neighborhood, a bigger car, brighter children. But underneath throbs the ache of cosmic specialness, no matter how we mask it in concerns of smaller scope,” (E. Becker, The Denial of Death, 4).
In other words, our pancakes undergo metamorphosis. They become adult versions of sibling rivalry, denominational rivalry, coworker rivalry, spousal rivalry. Life is just one long pissing contest. Or, to put it theologically, we’re all out to prove to God that we are worth noticing, accepting, loving.
I don’t know if God laughs at this or not. It is undeniably funny. Here’s why.
Suppose there’s this guy—we’ll call him Ronnie—and Ronnie absolutely adores his wife, Cindy. I mean A.D.O.R.E.S. her. Buys her roses. Washes her car. Writes her sweet notes. Let’s her vent. Refills her wine glass. I mean, the dude puts all us other guys to shame.
And Cindy? All she does is worry that Ronnie doesn’t love her. Maybe he’s cheating on her. Maybe he thinks she’s fat. Or ugly. Or too old. But this is dumb. Of course, Ronnie loves Cindy. He does a million things every day to show his love. It’s freaking obvious. In fact, why would she doubt it?
It’s almost funny that Cindy would doubt Ronnie’s love. So he laughs, takes her in his arms, and says, “Look, Sweetheart. I love you. Always will. Just watch me. You’ll see.”
So it is with us. We’re Cindy and Ronnie is Jesus.
Every breath we breathe is the exhalation of divine love.
Every step we take is paved with his mercy.
Every cell of our bodies trumpets his compassion.
Every wrong we do is washed away by his blood.
Every good we don’t do is filled in by his obedience.
Every coal-black inch of us is covered by the snow-white cloak of his grace.
In God’s eyes, we cannot be too fat or ugly, mean or selfish, shamed or abused, corrupted or inadequate for him not to love us. Don’t be silly. @@In God’s ocean of mercy, there are no beaches, for those waters of love just go on and on and on.@@
Sibling rivalries in God’s family are buried beneath the cross. There God dies for Tommy, Isabel, Jessica, Patrick. And you. All uniquely love but equally loved. All specifically forgiven but totally forgiven.
God says so.
God proved it so.
@@In Jesus, everyone’s pancakes are the same size.@@
My new book, Your God Is Too Glorious: Finding God in the Most Unexpected Places, is now available. You can order copies from Christian Book Distributors, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your favorite local bookstore.