“In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” ~Job 12:10 ESV
The sand in the cake incident is what finally broke me.
During my in-laws’ open house, our daughter inexplicably tossed a handful of sand on her grandma’s beautiful, homemade celebration cake. It was rendered inedible, of course. We asked her the question parents ask disobedient children everywhere: “What were you thinking?”
Does anyone expect a rational answer to that question?
She didn’t know. We didn’t know. We only knew that this act, along with the other impulsive behavior and rages that had been her trademark for the past couple of years, impelled us to get answers from a professional.
Ultimately, we figured it out ourselves before seeing the doctor. Our child had Tourette Syndrome. Her ability to control herself wasn’t a matter of discipline; it was a matter of chemistry. And nothing feels worse for a kid—or a parent—than being out of control and not knowing why or when life will ever return to “normal.”
I imagine a figure in the Christmas story feeling like this. She’s only peripherally there, so one doesn’t normally think of her as a participant.
“David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,” (Matthew 1:6 NIV).
Bathsheba, aka Uriah’s wife, took a bath one night, and her entire world was rocked. The king saw her, called her to his bedroom, and the ensuing pregnancy, murder set-up, and scandal (see 2 Samuel 11) isn’t a story we tell our kids gathered around the Christmas tree under the warm, twinkling lights.
But if not for Bathsheba, there would be no Jesus story.
We don’t know if she was a willing participant. We don’t know if she adored her husband and mourned his death. We don’t know if she had a content life. We don’t know anything. Perhaps it’s right that she’s mentioned in Matthew only as “Uriah’s wife.” She was the beautiful but invisible woman whose life was controlled by others.
I imagine her, devastated by the loss of her husband, home, and child, wondering if she would ever have control of her own life. Convinced that there would never be a “normal” again. I imagine because I know that feeling.
Of course, the message of Christmas is that our life is, indeed, not our own. It never was. We truly are out of control. The promise, however, is that the One who is in control knows and hears and sees our losses, because he has lost too. He gave up everything, starting with an inglorious birth in a tiny back room and ending on a cross. He could have controlled it all to his advantage—but he didn’t. Instead, he allowed our advantage to be his priority.
My family’s life has never returned to normal, whatever that is. My imaginations of what life was “supposed” to look like gave way to medicine trials, struggles, anguished prayer, and finally deep love and grace for that which is not what we expected. The terror of being out of control, for all of us, has receded into a security that we never are in control, but we don’t have to be. Bathsheba, with all her uncertainty, became a forbearer of Jesus, the King of her creation. In her confused loss, she birthed great gain for us all.
Dear Lord, help me to accept I cannot control those things I think I need to hold on to for my life to go as planned. Give me grace to release what doesn’t make sense and trust you with the meaning of it all. Show me that your plan for me is beautiful, but it is not in my control. Amen.
Scriptures for Reflection
“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” (Hebrews 2:14–15 NLT)
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep”. (John 10:10-11 NLT)
Reach for More
What frightens you most about your life right now? What feels out of control? Imagine the child King Jesus in a manger, looking small and helpless, yet holding all the help you will ever need. Imagine yourself kneeling in front of that manger. Imagine physically giving him your worries, fears, and uncertainties like the magi gave gifts—opening your hands and putting them in front of him. The magi didn’t take back their gifts. They left them. Can you leave these things too? Walk away and trust the One who is always in control.
Jill Richardson is a writer, speaker, pastor, mom of three, and author of five books. She likes to travel, grow flowers, read Tolkien, and research her next project. She believes in Jesus, grace, restoration, kindness, justice, and dark chocolate. Her passion is partnering with the next generation of faith. Jill blogs at jillmrichardson.com.
Photograph © Roxane Clediere, used with permission