When my niece, Raegan, was born I immediately protested the given name of “Uncle Ben” due to the fact I didn’t want to sound like a white rice pilaf or Spiderman’s uncle, so I had her start calling me “Uncle Sledge”. Being that most 2 year olds can’t pronounce their own name, let alone “Uncle Sledge”, I became “Uncle Suds”.
I have a feeling I’m stuck being a soapy detergent for the rest of her life which is going to make college weird for her when she has to explain to friends that “Uncle Suds is coming over for Thanksgiving”.
Raegan and I didn’t have the best relationship starting off. Being that I’m a large man covered in tattoos I was scary to her. Any attempt to hold her would result in crying. Play toys and barbies with her? Cry. Chase her around the house? Screaming fit. Ask for a high five? Cry.
So eventually I gave up on making friends and we kinda accepted each others presence as long as I didn’t look at her.
This all changed for me one day when I actually got to hold her without her bawling. Raegan had just finished vomiting and crapping her pants and was being tossed around like a beach ball at a concert….except this beach ball is covered in vomit and poop. Guess who became the lucky beach ball recipient?
I protested that me holding her was just going to make the situation worse, but eventually got handed Little Miss Raegan: Turd Princess.
Then something happened. She stopped crying, smiled at me and wiped her grubby little vomit hand on my face and giggled, and in that moment I fell deeply in love with my niece.
The little nugget herself, Raegan.
Now rewind the clock thousands of years to a man named Moses (or Charlton Heston depending on if you’ve only seen the movie) who leads Israel out of Egypt and ultimately collects the 10 Commandments. For those that don’t know, most people in general (especially Christians) use the 10 commandments as a litmus test to see how evil you are. And most times we look at the 10 commandments and see the commands, “Don’t murder, Don’t commit adultery, Don’t steal” and we go, “Hey I’m pretty good at keeping these rules! I’m a good person!“
American society loves to compare ourselves to scoundrels. In order to make ourselves feel good, we’ll compare our glaring flaws to murderers, adulterers, pedophiles, or people who’s job we deem as “immoral”. In our minds, or maybe even to our friends, we’ll say “Well I’VE never cheated on my girlfriend/boyfriend…..I’ve never killed anyone…….I’m a good person, I don’t hurt people…..“ And we’ve become this society that constantly has beaten into us “You’re a special snowflake and a good person!”
Do you know what the problem is with high self- esteem? It will make you go to bed at night knowing you’re a liar and knowing at any moment you’re going to be exposed for the lying fraud you are. I should know above all people. I’m in a 12 Step Recovery Program for pride, arrogance, narcissism, and the need for self-validation. And what I’ll do is lay down in bed and try to convince myself I don’t need to be in the program because I’m not that bad, but everything within me is screaming ”YOU’RE SUCH A FAKE!“
By design, we’re not good people. By the time I was 3 or 4 I was stealing stuff. We would go to Wal-Mart, and my mom would come home start unpacking and suddenly there’s a G.I. Joe toy in the bag that she didn’t pay for.
“Uh oh. What’s this?”
“I bought it.”
“No, you’re three. You don’t have money.”
By the time I was 5 I was lying. Have you ever wondered where you learned to lie? Guarantee it wasn’t your parents. What parent says, “You know, I want my kid to lie, so I’m gonna teach them that”. Maybe it’s intrinsically in your wicked soul? Did you ever bite and hit other kids in the nursery? I wonder what it was in you that said, “I’m not getting what I want. You know what the answer is? VIOLENCE.” Could it be that something within you is broken? So here’s what ends up happening when you’re like, “Oh, I’m a great man…..I’m a great woman…” The only way you can justify that belief is to look around for scoundrels and compare yourself to them.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN I DIDN’T GET A PONY FOR CHRISTMAS!!!???”
Now fast forward to present day Christmas (I promise by the end of this you’ll see what I’m doing). Christmas to some people is a season of giving and toys and egg nog and wassail and good tidings towards your fellow man. To children a fat man in a red suit crams himself down a tiny chimney and gives you presents if you’re “good” all year. Ironically, most people around this season tend to think of God like Santa also, where they say “Well if I’m good then then good things will happen next year”. Karma basically. The only problem is I already showed you you’re inherently evil instead of good and if you’ve ever looked at karma it doesn’t work. Evil people live long, prosperous lives, and good people have horrible things happen to them, so karma, too, is a flawed system.
And yet at the root of why Christmas was started was to celebrate a small baby born in a barn and placed to sleep in a feeding trough (we’ve spiced it up by calling it a “manger”). And the heart of Christmas is that this baby boy would one day grow up to become Jesus. Jesus who would do away with this system of following the rules and being a good person (even though you’re not); this system of Karma where we keep trying to do good and constantly failing or having bad things happen to you. He is the promise to people everywhere that the 10 commandments are simply in place to show that you can’t be your own functional savior and that you’re busted and you can’t do good, but that he has come to free you of that and bring true fulfilling life.
I have to imagine, how horrible would it be to have Jesus show up and be like, “Listen, I know you can’t keep these 10 commandments, so I brought you 50 more.” Instead what is said is that “the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
And so this Christmas, I reminded that in the eyes of God I am like my niece, Raegan. I’m covered in my own vomit, I’ve crapped everywhere, and I’m wiping my own junk on the face of the creator all the while giggling about it…and Christ, holding me gently in his arms, falls deeply in love with me…..in spite of that fact I’ve done nothing to earn his affections.
May this Christmas speak that message to the inner workings of your heart and bring you freedom from the Law…..