It's a cold winter night, the lights from a Christmas tree and a crackling fire dimly lightens the room. A little boy is resting on the couch, squeezing the paw of his teddy bear, enjoying Christmas cartoons. In walks his father reeking with the smell of alcohol and Tommy Hilfiger cologne, hoping to disguise his additive habit, but his glazed over stare always exposes his drunken condition. The little boy slides his teddy bear closer, preparing for the storm that would soon come. It always comes when daddy comes home like that. In walks the mother, a look of despair on her face as she gets ready to unload years of frustration on her husband, desperately wanting him to change for the sake of their son. "Go to your room son," the little boy's mother beckons. He jumps off the couch, brings his teddy bear close to his chest, and walks towards his bedroom---a routine he was too familiar with. He shuts his bedroom door as fear tries to frighten him. Tears rush to his eyes, concerned about the reason mommy is always mad at daddy when he looks like that. A pit forms in his stomach, nervous about the outcome of the fight. Mommy and daddy are always fighting, and the little boy hates the yelling and being alone. But the little boy remembers that he has his teddy bear, and he squeezes it firmly against his chest.
"As long as I have my teddy," he reminds himself, as the hug from his friend comforts the depths of his soul. "As long as I have you teddy."
I often tell people that sometimes when I'm having deep reflective moments, I feel the presence of a little boy. In this fictional story, I wanted you to meet this little boy, a true youth at heart but with a high hidden maturity level. This will probably be my most transparent blog yet.
For as long as I can remember, I have always taken rejection personally. In which, can be extremely unhealthy, but it's just a natural response and a flaw of mine that I battle with. And if I really traced the issue down to its root, I would say that it may have started when I was a little boy. I think subconsciously, I responded to an absent father personally. I had other friends with their dad still at home, why don't I? I mean, what's wrong with me?
And for all my life, that question has haunted me, and has caused me to take rejection personally, even to this day. I was looking at pictures from high school, and my heart grieved for the young man in those pictures. Knowing he was dealing with the same insecurity that I still feel flares up even to this day, and I'm wondering, "Dude, what are you turning to to find comfort for that question?" Here's what I have always assumed. People leave you because they figured out something about you that they just couldn't deal with.
I assumed that my dad leaving was because of me. Maybe I couldn't hold my head up by myself fast enough or I exhibited some signs of being an uncool son. Maybe he realized something was wrong with me, so he left. When my first love randomly broke up with me, I assumed maybe I was a bad boyfriend, incapable of loving her. Maybe she figured out something was wrong with me, so she got out as quick as she could. And as I had fun and life filled friendships with girls and grew interest, after I would express that interest, it was like I grew an extra head or somehow offended them by being interested. Maybe they realized something was wrong with me, so they had to distance themselves. When I had to deal with being replaced as the senior leader of a ministry without explanation, the questions of the unknown haunted me. Maybe they figured out something was wrong with me, and needed to get me out of that position. And as I'm applying for jobs in this season of my life, and consistently getting the emails back saying, "sorry, we are considering someone else for the position", I nod, and my brokenness tries to comfort me by saying, "yeah, they know something is wrong with you." And every time, in every moment like this, this little boy, frightened by his surroundings, walks into his room to be alone but squeezes tightly to his chest his teddy bear. "As long as I have my teddy."
So if you know me personally or read my blogs consistently, and have ever wondered why I love Jesus so much, it is because he is my teddy bear King.
And thank God I met Him. In so many areas of my life, I have found myself responding to trials and hardships and challenges the same way. Whenever I get rejected, the question, "What's wrong with me" always rises up. Before I met Jesus, I would actually work on whatever I figured to be the reason someone left. Maybe I'm a bad son, so I became a better son for my mom when my dad left. When my first love broke up with me, okay, I'll be a better man, a better boyfriend, a better lover. But when I met Jesus, when He revealed Himself to me in all His glory, He became my teddy bear King. He became my go to, not to resolve or change anything about me, but someone who accepted me for me. I remember so many encounters where I knew I had disappointed Him, and He was still there. I'd neglect Him, wouldn't talk to him for weeks, but when I would call He was still there. He is my teddy bear King.
And after meeting Him, every situation where I've been rejected, I feel this little boy inside of me walking to his room, wanting to be strong but just also wanting to be alone. But he knows he's not strong by himself, and he squeezes his teddy bear King, and all the pain goes away. All the fear goes away. As long as I have my teddy. As long as I have my teddy bear King.
It doesn't matter my assessment of the situation, my only hope is found in that my teddy bear King is always with me. So you can keep your "God has a plan for your life" or "you're a leader" messages, "works based" salvation, or "deep doctrine debates," those things have not comforted my soul in the midst of rejection and doubt, which exposes their fallible insufficiency as primary issues. But the hope of Jesus, the message of the Gospel, my teddy bear King, warms my soul like nothing else. When I squeeze tightly to my savior King my fear and pain diminishes, and I don't care about the fighting in the other room. I don't care about the unknown answers to my replacement. I don't care about the rejection, or the unreturned phone calls. As long as I have my teddy. As long as I have my teddy bear King.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible that reveals the beauty of the Gospel and the heart of Jesus is in Luke 22:39-49 when Jesus is hanging on the cross and the two thieves next to him are speaking with him. One is hurling insults at Jesus, but really after his own selfish gain by his mocking. But the other thief, rebukes the mocker and turns his attention to Jesus. The thief recognizes his own deserving of the death he was experiencing, and out of some unknown reason just asks Jesus to remember His name.
"I don't want much, I deserve what I'm getting. I'm a thief. I'm a wreck, I don't deserve saving from this death, so just remember me when you go into your kingdom." But Jesus does so much more than just remembers his name, He invites Him in! "No, you're coming with me into my kingdom!"
What magnitude of an invite is that? Even if there is something wrong with me. Even if maybe I was destined to be an uncool kid, or even if I'm over impulsive or too aggressive or too clingy or too emotional or too whatever causes people to run away, Jesus doesn't run. He instead engages. He invites. "Get in here my son. You're wanted here. You're loved here."
The Gospel wrecks me because of this very reason. You weird, imperfect, inconsistent humans, I love you, but I'm so glad you're not the hope. I'm so glad you're not God. I'm so glad that you're not the reference of love, of grace, of mercy. I'm glad Jesus invites us in. I'm glad I have my teddy bear King.
As long as I have my teddy....
As long as I have my Jesus.....all is well.