I am okay with the Pastoral Jesus. I love the images of him carrying the lamb on his shoulder. I like to think that as the pre-Incarnate Christ was there at creation, he has a good way with animals and people.
I preach regularly about the universal salvation of Jesus. For Advent, the Incarnation is Jesus’ first act of reconciling us to himself. By the very act of entering the flesh, Jesus draws all creation closer to God. By dying an earthly death and raising from the dead, Jesus completes the work of reconciliation.
When I was in seminary, I worked hard on determining theologically how Jesus saves. A common premise was how can Jesus save the abused, when they are still under the boot of their abuser. My time as a US-2 working at a children’s home gave me real-life cases around which to shape my theology. If Jesus can’t save them, then he is no savior. The incarnation became vital: Jesus enters our collective experience and saves from within.
But now things are different. I’ve worked things out theologically, but experientially, I’ve changed. I’m now a father, with all the stresses and challenges. And I love being a dad. It’s tough but awesome. I’ve never been so tired, or so connected. In fact, just the other day, I thought, A. is about the only person on the planet that gives me extended periods of eye-contact.
But Jesus was never a dad and never a husband (to our knowledge). I can’t see how he could have done the things he did were he not single and childless. But there are consequences. Peter exclaims that he has left everything to follow Jesus. The Rock upon which Jesus built his church abandoned his family. The promise of getting it back in heaven just isn’t comfort enough for me. Abandoning M. or A. seems unconscionable.
Peter, et al aside, how can Jesus look out upon the crowd gathered on the Mount, look into the faces of mothers and fathers and tell them not to worry? I know, Jesus carried the weight of the world’s sin to the cross and, praise the Lord, I bear it no more. But sometimes being a dad troubles my soul. I worry that I can ‘t handle the responsibility, that A. will grow up to hate me, that I can’t handle the aloof teen years, etc. I worry that I’m not helping M. enough, not leading the family well-enough. I know that scripture tells us that being a good dad is connected to being a good pastor (1Tim 3:5), but I feel ungood at both. I feel so fragile at times. Incarnation notwithstanding, where is Jesus’ salvation for me.
Disclaimer, since it’s hard to read tone on the web: This is not a rant, but a current obstacle. I’ve not given up on Jesus, and I know his grace is sufficient for me. We’ve just been having some words.