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Watch new parents holding their tiny newborn and you instinctively smile, slow down a little, and feel all snuggly yourself. They cradle their baby so tenderly, coo and smile and baby talk quietly, and without thinking they often start rocking and moving a little bit. It is all so precious and beautiful.
And when they hand their treasured bundle to you, you start doing the same thing. Instinctively you are gentle. And without any warning, your heart swells with love and concern for this little one. When the baby’s eyes open and look at you, full of trust and squinting at the bright lights, you smile back and whisper nonsense. And if the baby smiles at you, or at least moves their lips into some form of an almost smile, well then you consider yourself blessed and brag to everyone that the baby smiled at you.
All this happens almost magically. No one plans it. No one gives themselves a pep talk about being nice to a baby. It just happens. Time and time again and all over the world, this scene plays out repeatedly. Parents and others finding delight in the little one snuggled in their arms.
It’s a beautiful picture of love. The baby is loved just because. Not because she deserves love or has done anything to earn love, but just because she is. The parents and others love her first because she is theirs. Eventually she will learn to love them back.
But it will be with a simple love at first. Hugs and kisses and scribbled crayon layered scraps of paper freely given. Eskimo kisses and gifts of sticky pinecones and offerings of a bite from a half-eaten cookie soggy with mouth juice.
This love starts out one-sided, and grows unequally for years. Maybe forever. The parents will love, care for, protect, sacrifice for, and devote their care and energy to their child for years to come. Maybe the child will grow up and begin to realize how much her parents cared for and loved her after she has children of her own and starts the cycle all over again. And maybe she will never know the depth of love and pride that her parents carry for her. Or the heartache, worry, and anxiety she brought into their life at times.
As the baby grows, she develops her own will. Discovers she has desires of her own. Learns that life has rules and bedtimes and the word no. Tantrums are thrown and anger is exercised and as she gets older she sometimes wonders if her parents are hindering her life and holding her back from fun and adventure.
It will be years before she realizes, if she ever does, that her parents had rules and said no to protect her and keep her safe. And because they loved he so fiercely. And because they wanted what is best for her. Nor did they want her to suffer more than necessary. These rules and times of saying no were not because they were mean and hard and didn’t love her.
Yes, she will at times question her parent’s love, even when they are telling her that they love her. As they are disciplining her. Even as they are providing all the comforts and necessities of life they can offer her.
She will rage and question them and storm about the house and slam doors and rile at times about them. She will try and distance herself from them and then come running back to them. And always, they will welcome her back into their arms and reassure her of their love for her. For a while she will believe it, and then she will wonder again and again as time goes on. Her friends will tell her that her parents don’t love her. That they are trying to control her. That she knows what is best for her life. That they are fuddy-duddy’s.
But despite all the ups and down and what life throws into all of their lives, she will be changed by their fierce love. Molded by their love. Their love will grow her into a beautiful young woman. Their love will change her for the better, just like the absence of their love would change her for the worse.
Do you find yourself identifying with this scenario? Maybe as the parent? Maybe as the child? Well this is like the story of our heavenly father and us. He loves us with a tender and fierce love. Not because we deserve it, or we earned it, or we are good enough for it, but just because we are his. Just like the parents love that baby girl long before she can love them back, and just because she is theirs and now part of the family. They love their baby because they want to and can’t even help themselves.
Do you believe God loves you?
We may believe God’s love for us at first. Or in good times. Or in the small way that we are able to understand. And then we want this and that and fall on tough times, we hear about rules we dislike and we begin to question his love for us. We listen to the lies of the enemy that we are not good enough. That we are to flawed to be loved or valued. We begin to see the true state of our heart and think we are unworthy of his love and need to earn it. How could he just love us and all because? How could he really love us unconditionally when we don’t even love ourselves? We wonder how he could like us, maybe even want to help us, if he knew the real us.
Part of the problem is that we grow up and quit being childlike.
Small children believe their parents when they are told they are loved. They don’t fear they have a black heart needing to be hidden. They don’t think they need to earn their parents’ love. No, they delight in their parents’ love and try to please them. They don’t worry about being enough of anything. Not being enough has never even occurred to them. They delight in their parent’s praise and smiles and never think that their scribbled pictures or lopsided summersaults are not good enough. And when they throw a tantrum or are naughty, they assume their parents will love them once again just like before.
Comparison and envy has not moved into their childlike hearts and made them yet doubt. Fear and the need to perform has not occurred to them yet. Worry and anxiety for the future has not even entered their minds. Bitterness and distrust has not taken root. Their parents have always been there and always will be. They have a childlike faith, trust, and love.
Small children do not look at all their externals: the size of their house, the size of their paycheck, the brand of their clothes, their mistakes and disorganized day, or their sins and wonder if their parents still love them. A difficult day does not mean they have lost their parent’s favor. Each day is a fresh start. Their memory is short.
Part of the problem is we grow up and quit being childlike.
We grow up and start looking around at our stuff, our circumstances, our current day, our trials or unanswered prayers and wonder if God loves us. We don’t look to his word, his faithfulness in our life, his promises about our future, or count our blessings and rejoice and know that nothing can separate us from his love as his child. Nothing. No bad, horrible, long, black day. No meltdown. No trial. No death of a loved one. No child not born. No prayer not answered. No bad hair day. No lack of money in the bank. No questioning of him in prayers. No periods of us turning from him. No dark sin. No addiction. Nothing. Nothing in this life. Absolutely nothing can separate us from him and his love for us.
But we don’t believe it.
As we grow into adults we are told that nothing is free in this world, and we assume that also means God’s love, grace, and freedom. We are told that we should be beholden to no one. If someone gives you something, you give them something back. So we assume we need to somehow repay him in exchange for his love. Maybe we can get our act together and be good and eventually earn his love. We wrack our minds trying to think of ways not to be beholden to God. And then we want to make the formula for him to love us as complicated as an Algebra II problem with 15 steps. Or maybe even an equal equation, but we can’t figure out how to do that.
We hear his love is free for the asking, but it is hard for us to ask for something and stand there with empty hands. We want to be the giver. To have some control. Because it is harder to take, than give.
Eventually we know we need him, so we take a little love, and then rush to pay him back through leading bible study and helping the homeless and wearing a shirt that says, “Are you saved?” And he stands there with free love dripping out of his hands, wanting to give us more, but we say we have enough and rush on trying to even the score we have with him.
And all along his love waits for us.
Part of the problem is we need to become like little children.
Small children are confident in their parents’ love for them. They believe their parents and place their trust in them. They don’t realize the love score (or scale) is uneven. They don’t try to earn love. They just accept love and never question if it really is free? If it really is necessary? If it comes with strings attached?
Let us become like little children. Let us be confident in our father’s love. Let us believe him and bask in his love and quit doubting it. Let us accept it as the free gift it is meant to be. Because if we relax in his love and believe that nothing will separate us from his love, just think how we will change. We will be calmer. We will worry less, stress less, doubt less, and rail against him less. Confidence will be one of our virtues. Because we will know he has got this. Even when it doesn’t look like it.
If we as imperfect humans love our children as much as we do in our conditional flawed ways, how much more does our father love us?
Relax in his love. Bask in his love. Trust his love.
It will change you. It will shape and direct you into a better child.
Just like your love shapes those around you into better versions of themselves, his love will shape you into a better you.
Live like you are loved. Because you are. Now and always.
Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.
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Join the discussion: How can you become more childlike?