“She’s not called Auntie Meanie for nothing!” Euan cheerfully shot over his shoulder towards Aedan and added for good measure, “and Dad’s called Uncle Grump.” The titles are self-imposed and undeserved: Tom & Jen take a firm and consistent approach to any children permanently or temporarily in their care and have coined the terms as self-descriptors. At that point, Aedan probably agreed.
Half Term had ended, but many teachers had an inset day, leaving the children at home kicking their heels. Aedan’s sister and brother were both at nursery and their parents at work or college, so Aedan was dropped off Sunday, overnighted at the Rectory, and as Grandma went to her inset training, we checked up on Jen and the boys. As they had nothing planned, Aedan and I set off for Ulverston so three boys could have an enjoyable day. Aedan nattered excitedly all the way up, and on arrival, we travelled towards Barrow and the nearest MacDonalds with the inevitable ‘Happy Meal’ complete with water-squirting penguin toy. Naturally, the boys wanted to try them out, and were told ‘Later…’ a command not universally received…
Meal finished, we set off for South Lakes Wild Animal Park, well worth a visit, with walks on multiple levels and plenty to see. However, recent heavy rain had left thick red mud all around and most of the paths needed to be navigated with care if your lower limbs were not to be redecorated dull red – and we were entering with 3 happy and excited boys, Euan, Zach and Aedan, then 8, 6 and 5. Multiple and high level walkways with lots to see encourage small boys to run ahead; marker rocks by paths need to be mounted; fences need to be climbed; puddles need to be jumped – or forded! With varying degrees of success, the boys were reined back without spoiling their fun. Aedan perhaps could less well read the sharp edge in Jen’s voice, or perhaps he couldn’t see the good reasons for her commands. A testing of strength of will was always going to go Jen’s way!
One broken command too many and Aedan found himself walking hand in hand with Jen, and it was definitely Jen holding Aedan – ‘until you show you can do what you’re told’. As Aedan walked very reluctantly with Jen, Euan and Zach bounced along a short distance ahead. Euan shot his ‘matter-of-fact’ observation in Aedan’s direction, clearly a situation Euan recognised as ‘been there, done that’. After a short while, Aedan yielded to Jen, and was released. He ran forward and took my hand, walking with me and giving Jen a black look which only made her laugh. Rapidly reassured, Aedan detached himself and joined the other two, more or less keeping within the set parameters. Then he slipped. Jen was there immediately with a hankie, checking for any wounds, offering sympathy and comfort. Jen had no tolerance for misbehaviour, but compassion for his needs.
In a recent debate, one of the opposition speakers defined the Christian Faith as primarily about ‘tolerance’, citing Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. I challenged that definition, suggesting righteousness and truth were nearer the mark. The Good Samaritan works because there was intolerance between Samaritans and Jews, but his enemy offered compassion in his need. God is intolerant of sin, and calls his church to stand clearly for truth and righteousness, but exercised in love and with compassion, particularly remembering we are all fallen sinners. Jen modelled a more accurate picture, with her blend of intolerance for that which is wrong and compassion for need. ‘Tolerance’ occurs only half a dozen times in the bible, and usually in the context of ‘why do you tolerate…?’ while ‘compassion’ occurs throughout the bible as both characterising our God in his dealings with us and as a hallmark of his authentic people.
God is neither indifferent to our behaviour nor tolerant of our sin: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (The Bible, Romans 1.18). “For the wages of sin is death…” is the consequence, followed by His immeasurable compassion, mercy and grace: “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6.23), so that Paul will eulogise God as: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all comfort…”) (1 Corinthians 1.3).
Praying that you may cast yourself upon the mercy and compassion of our God to be cleansed from all that mars your life, that you may know and show the glory and love of Jesus Christ.
Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ, Simon Cox.