When my daughter was a toddler, I remember that sometimes (okay, more than sometimes) I became frustrated that I was unable to get my chores done. Although our home was a “toy land,” my daughter insisted on being held, especially while I was preparing dinner. One particularly stressful day I shared this problem with my father, who gave me a wily smile while saying, “Cheerios and molasses.”
Scrutinizing him through squinting eyes, I repeated, “Cheerios and molasses?”
“Yes,” he said. “Works every time.”
Sensing he was enjoying my parenting dilemma a little too much, but desperate to try anything, I took the bait. “Explain, Dad.”
“Well,” he began, “while you’re making dinner just put her in her highchair, dip the tip of her fingers in molasses and place some cheerios on her tray.” With a very satisfied look on his face and a well raised eyebrow he added, “And when she gets tired of the cheerios…give her a feather.”
I recently remembered this conversation while I was (strangely enough) making dinner. I was thinking of God, the Father. Odd perhaps, but there it was.
I recalled a time in my life when I experienced tremendous emotional trauma. Back then, I didn’t have any spiritual support. I never even considered it! It never entered my mind to seek counsel from a Spirit-filled friend or the Church.
Left to my own devices I started to believe the lie that, if God really loved me, my troubles would never have happened. After entertaining this perverse thought for awhile, Satan slyly planted another and another, until I foolishly dived head first down the slippery slope. Next stop on this train: self-loathing, unbelief, and rebellion. I blamed God for my woes and became very angry with him. He was no longer my friend. To drive home the point I turned my back on everything associated with him. I had an adult temper tantrum. I told God the very same thing my 6-year-old tells me when he doesn’t understand my loving discipline: “You’re mean!”
(“…do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges” (Heb 12:5-6).)
Reflecting on this period in my life I suddenly realized that my father’s quip about Cheerios and molasses was a metaphor for my relationship with God. God was like a Cheerio on my molasses-covered baby fingers. Even though I tried to ignore him and vigorously shake him off, he stuck with me.
When I was younger I remember declaring like St. Peter, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you.”(Mt 26:35) But deny I did, and to my great sorrow more than three times! As I continued to reject the Lord’s advances, I could hear him saying, “I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” (Lk 22:32) But in my stubbornness I rudely replied, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Did that stop Jesus from pursuing me? No!
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus recounts the parable of the persistent friend. “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence” (Lk 11:5-8). Jesus is using this parable to teach the importance of persistence and perseverance in prayer. But in my experience, I was the friend who would not open the door, and Jesus was the one who persisted in courting me with his mercy, grace, truth and love – knocking and knocking until I opened the door.
So let me forewarn you, in case you are under any deceitful delusions (as I was then) of ever escaping the infinite love of God. It can’t be done! The “hound of heaven” is absolutely relentless. “Everything is possible with God,” Scripture tells us. I declare: “Everything except escaping his incomprehensible, unfailing love!” Even as I rejected the Lord, He was always there, readily available the moment I yielded. We simply cannot flee the love of God, because it is his very essence. God IS love!
Even today, I’m still amazed. Like the prodigal child who returns from a life of shameless misery, God rushes to dress me in the finest robes, puts a ring on my finger and kills the fatted calf. We cannot comprehend it. We just need to accept it and know that it is!