“Jesus said, ‘But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.’ He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.” John 12:32, 33

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? “When I am lifted up from the earth…” But it sure wasn’t nice. It wasn’t glorious or even dignified. He was lifted up from the earth to hang bloody on a cross. From that position he looked weak and defeated, but he showed his divine power and drew us to himself. He extracted us from this rotting, sinful world and drew us to himself. He pulled us from the quicksand of our sin and drew us to himself. Yes, he saw us filthy, helpless to come into his presence, and when he was lifted up from the earth, he drew us to himself.

It seems like every time I sit down on the couch, I draw all my offspring to myself. I laugh to myself that “where there’s room in the heart, there’s room on the lap,” as the complaining starts. “I was here first”, “She smooshed my nose”, “He’s pulling my ponytail”, “I think he’s TRYING to get his crumbs on me”, “Someone smells like stinky feet”, “I don’t want to be so close to him if he’s going to hum that song over and over”. My first inclination is to say, “Hey, if you’re so unhappy, go sit on the recliner by yourself.” But I have found that better things happen when we stay snuggled up, embraced in love. It doesn’t take long before the knees and elbows are comfortably situated, the ponytail puller is stroking hair and we decide that smelly feet are a small price to pay for togetherness.

What about when Christ draws all men to himself in the church? Do we snuggle up pretty well, or do we call out for personal space? What are our complaints? “I was here first; they can learn to like my traditions.” “Boy, does that ‘smoosh my nose’ when they sit in the back for no good reason and then give me dirty looks when my kids make noise!” “That just ‘pulls my ponytail’ when she waltzes into choir late every week and enjoys all the attention she gets for it.” “I think they’re ‘TRYING’ to leave that coffee pot for me to wash every week.” “Someone ‘smells like’ he might not be legal in this country.” “I don’t want to ‘be so close’ to them if they’re going to go home and eat dog for lunch.”

Our Savior should toss us on the floor for those sinful thoughts, but he doesn’t. He draws us to himself and to his cross. He gathers us whiners onto his lap with the big pile of other sinners. He patiently strokes us with his love and forgiveness until we learn to love and hold each other. He asks us to be his messengers to share this wonderful message of love with others: “I have other sheep. …I must bring them also.” John 10:16

So the next time you catch yourself wishing you had the lap of Christ to yourself and guilt comes over you, threatening to pull you from his embrace, sit still and hear him whisper in your ear: “My dear, precious daughter! There is always room for you in my heart. Now scooch over, please, and make room for others in the pew.”

Jenny Otto