I can’t help but wonder how God feels about me sometimes. And when I’m really honest about it, it’s because of how I feel about my own daughters from time to time.
I love my children. Lucy and Daisy make me smile more than just about anything else on this earth. They laugh and play and imagine and dream and grow and dance (more like cavort) and sing (more like bellow occasionally) and I grin picturing their faces while they’re in the midst of rescuing (stuffed) animals from the “wild” only to put them into their pens at the barn to keep them safe and fed because, you know, hippopotamuses are farm animals after all. Few moments in time compare with the utter hilarity and cutesy-ness of two siblings making things up as they go along.
And as beautiful as that is, there are times when I want to smack their little behinds for sassing me or for their lack of obedience.
Being a father has really cast God’s love in a more powerful light. When Jesus is teaching his disciples about persisting in prayer near the end of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7, he reminds them that, “–if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask you for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”
I can’t help but think about the times when I hold my daughters’ hand as we cross a parking lot or when I slather sunscreen on their forearms and faces and necks and even the parts in their hair. I know how to keep them safe, I know how to protect them. And so I do.
And at the same time, when “Mademoiselle Poopy-Pants” emerges because they don’t get their way or when they blatantly disregard something I’ve told them to do, I get to be judge, jury, and executioner.
It’s a strange paradox. I end up both plaintiff and advocate, offended party and defense attorney.
This is how God sees His role in some ways. It is HIS law, HIS commandments, HIS righteousness that has been violated by my willful disobedience, my sin.
Yet God, in his mercy, chooses to look at Jesus rather than me. He chooses to satisfy his own desire for justice because he doesn’t want me to suffer his divine, holy, perfect, and might I add–justified wrath. He upholds me and protects me, rescuing me from this world and securing my future eternity with him by the blood of Jesus.
There are days when I am keenly aware of my own missteps, of my own vacant choices, of my own desecrating deeds. I can catch a whiff of the odorous stench of my sin because I know what it is like to be ignored and disobeyed. I know where that takes me in my own role as a father, in which case I can only imagine what the perfect Creator of the universe feels when I do the same to him.
So, like any disobedient child, I undergo consequences. There are absolutely repercussions for sin, but God’s love isn’t entirely punitive discipline. It isn’t entirely slaps on the wrist. It’s provision and protection. It’s salvation and security. God lets people choose which side of him they get at any given time. Equally amazing is that at all times he is both heads and tails. His righteousness leads to judgment, but that judgment leads to the cross. He loves us enough to demand obedience and provide forgiveness for disobedience in the same instant.
And when the inevitable fallout from my poor choice comes, I am reminded of just how incredibly holy my Father is. I remember his justice and his wrath poured out on Jesus rather than me.
And I weep.
I don’t weep because of the punishment for my sin. I weep knowing that I am loved beyond measure.
And my hope for my daughters is to feel the same way. My aim, and my wife’s, is to raise the two of them in such a way as to bring them to the foot of the cross and help them to comprehend and receive the love of the One who died upon it, to “understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep [God’s] love is.” (Eph. 3:18)
And I understand that now, more than ever before, because of the two smiling-yet-still-somehow-pouting giggle boxes asleep in their beds. I am so incredibly thankful for the sunscreen, for the parking lot “electric fence hand line”, for the laughs, and yes, even for the disobedience because all of it draws me closer to my heavenly Father than I have ever been before.