March 17, 2015

The Love of the Father

Last night I had to confront something going on between my 2 children. As I'm sure most of you understand, they act like best friends one minute and then the next...there's a civil war breaking out in my home. I don't know how it is for everyone else, but with our kids it's never usually about anything. It can be that "he's messing with my stuff" or "she stepped on my head". There are screams, cries, groans, and ear-piercing screeches from light-sabers to the face, Nerf darts to the head, sneak attacks jumping out of closets, and (the unthinkable crime that's almost too horrible to mention) "borrowing" electronics without asking. [GASP!] You get it. They're kids.

That said, part of the fun of being a parent is using these moments (which often seem to come at a never-ending pace) to teach, instruct, and disciple our kids to put others first, to care more about people than stuff, to take an objective look at their behavior, and most importantly, to begin teaching them to seek out the direction, wisdom, instruction, and guidance of the Spirit of God and the Word of God. Many may read that and think: "Wait a minute. Your kids are 10 and 12. You honestly think they understand all of that?" As I've said many times before, I'll say again: They may not understand all of it, but they are absorbing it. We have to seize these moments to raise them up and train them to walk with God - to chase after and pursue Jesus Christ with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. In light of that, last night was another opportunity. And in taking time to instruct my daughter, I was not only reminded of her very unique and sensitive heart, personality, and character, I was also reminded of my own.

As I was confronting and addressing our little sibling meltdown, my daughter burst into tears. While I knew she might feel some conviction, guilt, and (hopefully) sorrow for her role in the post-dinner battle, I didn't expect it at this level. After all, she didn't destroy anything of her brother's or physically harm him in any way. We were dealing with trust and integrity issues. I wasn't really prepared for this level of emotional breakdown (which I now question, in talking about an almost-teenage girl, what was I thinking). So I put my arms around her and simply said, "Sweetheart, I'm disappointed in the decision you made, but I'm not disappointed in you. I'm not mad at you." Without a second of hesitation she blurted out, "Oh, Daddy, I'm so glad you're not mad at me!" And then...more tears - followed by mascara all over the front of my new shirt.

In that moment, it hit me loud and clear: My daughter was paralyzed by the thought that I was disappointed in her - that I was mad at with her. She still - at times - thinks my discipline means the loss of my love, not the presence and manifestation of it. Yes, I was upset by the situation. Yes, I was disappointed in the way she treated her brother (&) the way she initially responded. And yes, the consequences were (and are) still there. But my love for her has not wavered for a moment. I'm not mad at her. She's my child. My love for her is beyond being able to articulate in a blogpost. I don't think I even understand or comprehend it. All I can say is, it's powerful.

It's very, very powerful.

And my love for them is always going to trump my anger at something they've done.

And that, my friends, is the exact same thing I struggle with in relationship to my heavenly Father. So many moments, and days, and weeks...I walk through life bearing this weight and burden and guilt that the Lord is mad at me. That He most certainly has to be disappointed with me. I've been convicted and broken. I've walked in repentance. I find myself there again. And then it comes. The weight. The guilt. The shame. The disappointment. And I learn, from watching my own children, and knowing my own disjointed, frail, human, imperfect heart as a father, that my Heavenly Father's love for me - for them - is so much greater. This is the heart of the Gospel.

The Gospel doesn't keep bringing back the weight; it lifts it.
The Gospel doesn't keep smearing guilt; it erases it.
The Gospel doesn't bring condemnation; it breaks it.
The Gospel says, "God isn't mad at you. He loves you!"

Reflect on 1 John 4:9-19 for a moment:

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.

And of course we all "know" John 3:16. The question is, do we live our lives daily reminding ourselves - preaching to ourselves - the life-changing truth that God's love for us is so great that He gave His Son to save us? He's not mad at us. Jesus isn't disappointed in us. The love of the Father is incomprehensible. And the Father - the perfect, eternal, almighty Father - has no desire for you & I to live our lives attempting to obey Him out of fear, or shame, or guilt, or the thought that this is the final straw

We obey Him because we love Him.

We love Him "because He first loved us."

It's mind-blowing that as a follower of Jesus Christ - as a child of God - nothing in all of creation "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Be encouraged. Be obedient. Turn from sin. Rest in His love.

Dig Deeper:
Romans 8
1 John (Yes, read the whole letter)

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