I am convinced that parents speak perfect English, but their children simply hear a different message. Just before leaving for work one morning, I warned my three boys, ages 8, 7, and 3, not to jump off the porch because they could possibly break something. It turns out that what the oldest boy actually heard was, “I bet you cannot jump off the porch without hurting yourself?” So, of course, he had to prove me wrong!
Yes, he jumped, and I had to leave work to take him to the hospital for treatment. My first question as we are heading for the emergency room was, “Didn’t I tell you not to jump off the porch?” He was in so much pain that he just sat there all subdued and quiet. I said, ” I do not understand why you insist on doing what I say not to do. Can you explain it to me?” No response.
We arrived at the hospital, and thank the Lord, nothing was broken but he had to have some stitches. When the doctor came in to begin the procedure, this child whom we nearly always had to chase through clinics and doctors’ offices, grabbing for any part of his body we could capture when he saw a needle, took one look at the hypodermic and threatened the doctor with grievous bodily harm if he tried sticking him with a needle. I was mortified, but, for once, my son had met his match. The young doctor threatened him with an even bigger needle, so we got the stitches and headed home.
There were many more moments in the life of my children where I found myself asking the same question, “Didn’t I tell you…… (you fill in the blank)?” But, it is somewhat refreshing to know that I was not the first person to ask the question of someone who seemed to forget what was told to them that might have saved them some stress, pain, or anxiety. In the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead found in John 11, when Jesus asks for the stone to be rolled away from Lazarus’s grave, Martha protested, saying “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”
Jesus responded to Martha, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” And then, he prayed to God and called Lazarus out of the grave. Lazarus came out, and Jesus reunited Martha and her sister, Mary, with their brother. Martha learned to believe in Jesus when he speaks, for in verses 25 and 26, Jesus had said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”
And although Martha had said yes and related her belief in him as the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who had come into the world from God, she still did not understand that that Jesus was saying to her that, if she believed, her brother would rise again in just a few minutes, not on the last day. I imagine that after Lazarus was ensconced at home, Martha reflected back to that conversation and thought, “I could have saved myself some worry and tears, if I had just listened to what Jesus said.”
We can’t criticize Martha, because we often do the same when troubles come into our lives, even as people of God. Although we pray and make God aware of the problem, we still worry and fret, calling Boo, Poo, and Susie, too, to ask for advice about what to do, rather than wait patiently for God to answer. I can hear the Lord saying to us as we seem to be losing our minds, “Didn’t I tell you not to be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you, and He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you?” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
I have no doubts that my children heard me when I tried to protect them from the world and all of the bad things that could happen to them. But, I also know that when they learned the hard way by doing what I told them not to do, that not only the one suffering from his or her escapade learned that I was right, but the others decided not to try their luck. I let them know that I was not trying to stop their fun, but, because I loved them, I did not want to see them hurt or worse.
There are so many laws and rules in the Bible, and they are there to help us make it through this world as painlessly and worry-free as possible. We need to write them on the tables of our hearts, so that we do not forget them and sin against God and each other. But, even more importantly, let us remember that they demonstrate the unfailing love of God for each of us who fear him.
Psalm 119: 33-36 states, “Teach me your decrees, O Lord; I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart. Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found. Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money!“
You have been told!