Shouting and Clapping to Heaven

Shouting and Clapping to Heaven

My beautiful kids

I was sitting in the rocking chair and singing lullabies to my newborn son when my daughter Ellie started acting out. My wife has seen her act jealous around her before, but this was the first time Ellie showed how truly jealous she was when it came to me holding her brother. She’s seen me hold Oliver before, but she’s never heard me sing lullabies to him. These are the lullabies that I’ve heard growing up in Cuba and the songs that I sang to Ellie when she was a baby.

She cried desperately and hovered around the rocking chair. At first I thought there was something wrong with her, some sort of pain or ache, but I realized she was jealous. In her mind, she probably thought that her papa could only love her that way and her alone.

So I asked her. “Ellie do you want me to sing to you and rock you?”

She stopped sobbing and said softly. “Yea.”

And so I did. I fully realized then how much she’s grown already. I held her like a baby. She barely fit in the small rocking chair, her head and legs extending beyond the arm rests. But she loved it. She looked up to me and smiled as I sang to her the old Cuban songs.

Ellie thought that if I showed love to her brother, then it meant that I didn’t love her the same. To Ellie, her papa belongs to her alone. And then I started thinking that even though I’m an adult, I act that way sometimes when it comes to God.

I may not cry about it, but when I make a judgment about who God loves and who God doesn’t, I’m taking ownership of God. I’m acting as if He was mine and only for people who think like me. But that’s not true. God loves people and He doesn’t want anyone to perish.

It’s easy for us to say that God won’t love our neighbor because he or she is different from us, but who are we to say? If I, a flawed and sinful man, can love both my son and daughter equally, how much more can God love? God is love. His capacity for love is endless because He is endless.

This all reminds me of that Flannery O’ Connor short story with Mrs. Turpin, the prideful old lady who saw herself above all others. She and her husband Claud think that their black workers and the people she considers “white trash” are inferior to them and to God. But this all changes when Mrs. Turpin has a vision:

“She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Up on it a vast horde of souls were tumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of white trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black Negroes in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They, alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces even their virtues were being burned away.”

The freaks and the lunatics were getting into heaven before those who saw themselves morally superior, before those who judged others as lesser in the eyes of God. But Jesus had already said that to a group of self-righteous people, “I assure you: Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you!” (Matthew 21:31)

We shouldn’t appropriate God’s love as if it was something we deserve, instead, we should be eternally thankful that he would love freaks and lunatics such as ourselves.


One thought on “Shouting and Clapping to Heaven

  1. Thanks. A touching memoir. Really like the FOC reference. Such a penetrating intelligence and heart! I will read more of your blog. Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox.

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