My 4 year old has a strong personality. Maybe all 4 year olds have strong personalities, but I don’t remember my daughters behaving the way my son does at times. Also, whenever someone says the phrase “strong personality,” I think it is ultimately code for, “pain in the bum.” And while my son is sweet and good and generous, he can also be a pain in the bum. Maybe you know someone like that.
The thing he does that bugs me more than just about anything else is when he won’t turn off the TV. I’d like to be the kind of person who can say, “Yeah, my family doesn’t watch a lot of TV.” But reality is that we do watch more TV than we should (please don’t send me an article on toddlers and screen time. I know.)
Sometimes when it’s time to turn off the TV, Leo will take the remote, pretend like he is going to turn it off, and then just stand with the remote in his hands and stare at the TV. Almost no amount of cajoling will get him to give up the remote. One time I made the mistake of trying to physically remove the remote from his hands. I couldn’t believe how strong he was. The kid weighs 30 lbs and it was all I could do to pry his little fingers apart. Unbelievable.
In the gospel, Jesus claims his followers. He says we will know his voice. We will follow him. He will give us eternal life. Then Jesus says no one can take us out of his hand. No one can take us out of the Father’s hand. Scholars tell us that this is a turn of phrase that means that if God wants to hold onto us, no one can take us from him.
I think sometimes we believe that there are forces in our lives that can pry us out of God’s grasp. Our busy schedules make it hard to go to Church on Sunday. Kids activities and sports tournaments get in the way of being committed to Church stuff. Our work life keeps us from a daily prayer practice. Have you ever heard anyone say things like this? Have you said them?
What Jesus is saying in the gospel is that nothing, I mean nothing, can steal us from God’s grip. No outside force can pry our lives out of God’s hand. Nothing can remove our souls from Jesus’ embrace.
The bad news is that anytime we do fall away from God, it isn’t anyone else fault but ours. When work or kids activities or busyness get in the way of God, it’s because we’ve chosen them over God. Nothing can pry us from God’s grasp, but we can walk away anytime.
When we choose something instead of God, it isn’t because that thing is more powerful than God. It is because we want it more than God in that moment. It’s us. It’s always been us who walk away.
Maybe that is hard for you to read. It was hard for me to write.
The good news is that God loves us more than our sin. While we turn away, God turns to us. When we run, he runs after us. When we pry ourselves out of God’s grip, God opens up his arms even wider and hopes we will run back to him soon.
So whether you feel like you are currently being held in God’s hands or feel like you are far from your loving God, don’t fret, nothing is more powerful than God. God is bigger than your sin. God loves you more than you love everything else in your life. All you have to do is return to him.
LIVE IT: Find something in your house, car, or office that symbolizes God. Maybe a crucifix from the wall or a Bible. Pick it up, and hold onto it really really tightly. Pretend that someone is going to try and steal it from you and hold onto it. Then say a quick prayer asking God to hold onto you tighter than you are holding onto that thing. Let God hold you close.