One year during spring break, a team from our church hosted what we call Cowboy Church in several inner-city settings. I was with one of those groups and we ministered to about two dozen precious children at the New Bethlehem Center in downtown Augusta.
One night during Cowboy Church, I opened the door to the room in which I'd been working to find my husband, Steve, holding little D'Marcus by his armpits. Little D'Marcus had one foot on one door jamb and the other foot on the other door jamb and he was screaming, "I don't want to go in there!" And Steve was so patient with him, smiling as he said, "That's fine. But we are going in there!"
You'd think a kid being shoved into a room by his armpits would not bounce back too quickly, but five minutes later, little D'Marcus was having the time of his life.
The next day, little D'Marcus showed up again, ready to play and learn.
That memory of Steve holding little D'Marcus by the armpits makes me think of the line in Isaiah 63:9, where the prophet says, "In his love and mercy he redeems us. He lifts us up and carries us through all the years."
I wonder if God might have meant that kind of lifting sometimes? Sometimes, I think the way we get into that place where the love, mercy and grace of God reside happens less like the gentle lifting of a baby and more like the way Steve lifted little D'Marcus.
Unfailing love, Isaiah calls it. The kind of love that will suffer with us, die for us, lift us up, carry us. The kind of love that is both whole and holy, giving and forgiving, universal and everlasting.
Psalm 139 says it is the kind of love from which we cannot escape. Unfailing love.
I believe there is a little of the spirit of D'Marcus inside each of us, a fight going on inside, a wrestling or a restlessness. And it seems to come alive especially when we reach the threshold of a new spiritual room, a place God is calling us toward that we haven't been yet. We get right up to it, but then something within us resists and we end up with our feet on the door jambs, screaming, "I don't want to go in there!"
We fight not because we know what's best for ourselves, but precisely because we don't. We fight because, like the Israelites in the Old Testament, we are afraid of death -- not physical death, but the kind of death a life in Jesus will call us to. He calls us to a death of our comforts.
That fighting spirit inside each of us needs to hear that sometimes it's OK, that if we give in and go to that next place God is calling us toward, we will die, but we will also be met by the mercy and love of God.
Sometimes, it is OK to die.
The Rev. Carolyn Moore is pastor of Mosaic United Methodist Church in Evans.