My children awoke one morning to find their daddy home after a business trip. While I was still peeling myself out of bed, one of them (whom we will name “Abel” to preserve anonymity) set to work on the alphabetical refrigerator magnets to spell out, “Welcome home Dad. I love you.”
As I came into the room, “Cain” (another pseudonym) was looking over Abel’s shoulder with a frowning face. They hadn’t seen me. As Abel bent down to look for another letter in the basket, Cain squeezed in between, scraping the letters that had already been placed on the fridge with a shoulder. Abel wailed. Cain was unrepentant; “You’re not even spelling it right.”
I didn’t feel welcomed home.
“Mind your own business, Cain,” I said sternly as I started making coffee. Abel resumed working with the critic still standing by. I was on the fourth scoop of coffee, when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Cain use both hands to swipe the letters down to the floor. Abel was crushed and wept with frustration.
The Heartbreak of Not Being Known
There was discipline, not commendation, given for Cain’s editorial skills.
I was disappointed–mostly from being misunderstood.
Why would I demand spelling perfection from Abel after all the times that I had glowed over Cain’s own mispellings? How could my children not know that the thing I longed for most was to see them loving each other, whatever they created for me?
I’ve said again and again that my greatest desire is to have a family who cares for each other and is kind and generous. Cain has known me since birth and still didn’t know what would please me.
Applying The Parable
It dawned on me that God must constantly face the same disappointment.
I’d just heard from a longtime friend, whose situation didn’t seem too different from the conflict between Cain and Abel.
This friend has committed his life to deeply understand the Greek, Hebrew and Arabic languages. His goal is to accurately translate the Bible in a way that overcomes inherent linguistic difficulties that cause Muslims to misunderstand its meaning.
He told me of critics who had characterized his work as theologically inappropriate and attacked it in inflammatory blogs. The eyes of the world seemed stirred up against him, threatening to destroy his efforts.
Due to the intricate, technical nature of his work, it was difficult for him to express his defense adequately to those who’d already made up their minds and condemned him. I mourned with him over what soldiers would call “friendly fire.”
The Human Condition
There’s a Muslim saying that’s frequently quoted in the West: “My brother and I against our cousin. My cousin and I against the infidel.” We repeat this as proof that Muslims are hopeless warmongers, but the sentiment closely resembles our own tendency to attack each other when lacking outside persecution.
I think it would honor God much more to encourage each other’s efforts and learn to be a gracious family.
…Oh, by the way, I misspelled the word misspellings above on purpose. Did you judge me?