Growing up, I went to a church where I did all the things I was “supposed” to do. I followed the rules, traditions and practices of the religion. I was educated on the facts and details of a Heavenly Father who loved me so much that He sent His only Son to die for me. I knew how the Bible story went, but I was missing the best (and most important) part.
It wasn’t until I was a teen that I first heard someone talk about the intimate nature of God. I realized then that I knew what God did, but I didn’t really know who He was. It sent me on a faith journey to better understand His nature as a loving Father. Frankly, though, it was a huge challenge to wrap my brain around a love without boundaries, especially after having experienced the absence of my own father. The idea of a steady, consistent source of tenderness, affection and protection was something not common to me. But I’ve learned so much from the gift of becoming a parent almost 18 years ago and the glimpses of God’s love offered through my own relationships with my children.
I can still vividly remember the nurse placing my newborn son on my chest. He hadn’t even been washed yet, but I couldn’t wait to be close to him skin-to-skin. I remember instantly feeling a love I had never before known. It was so intense, I couldn’t hold back my tears. I knew without question that I would do everything I could to raise and protect this tiny little life, so he could become all that God intended. He was my flesh, my child, and my first glimpse of how God (without my same human limitations) might feel about me.
What began to truly inform my heart, though, were the toddler years. I felt like I said “no” a thousand times a day, as my son started walking and became curious, adventurous and more independent. I recall sharing with an older, wiser mom that I felt like I was saying “no” all the time, and she gave the me advice to instead use the word “danger” when it related to his safety. It offered another level of clarity as to why I was forbidding something. He knew if I said “danger”, then it was for his safety and protection. And yet, he still needed me to remind him again and again.
And so it is with God.
How many times do we insist on doing things our own way, versus listening to Him? How often have we made poor choices or fallen into unhealthy habits, while He has made clear that it won’t go well for us? I can almost imagine Him shouting from the heavens, “danger!”
Just as I repeatedly reminded my son that playing in the parking lot would not go well for him, God reminds us of worldly dangers. He doesn’t offer this direction to keep us from enjoying life. Rather, like a good parent, His instruction offers us more life. Because on the other side of that busy parking lot is a grassy park with open fields and play structures for complete enjoyment. And on the other side of our own humanity, stubbornness and fleshly desires, is a perfect God offering us a lighted pathway to the best life.
Once I understood and valued God for being the loving Father He is, I was able to see the Bible in a whole new light. No longer was it a rule book or a set of laws impossible to keep perfectly, but it became a love story from a Father who is guiding His children towards fulfillment. Instead of making me feel guilty, it drew me in with a sweet tenderness. Scripture is filled with precious protection and loving instruction from a Father showing us where the danger is: outside of His will and direction. It’s also no coincidence that the Bible is filled with scriptural warnings about pride, as well as the value of humility. Once we think too much of ourselves, we are prone to false confidence, selfish actions and distance from God – all things that put us at greater risk.
Thankfully, God is a far better parent than me in every way, but particularly one. Whereas I grow weary of repeating myself and my patience grows thin, God’s grace is immeasurable. He continually and faithfully forgives us each time we ask, and He welcomes us back each time we have wandered. Though our sin patterns and poor choices undoubtedly grieve Him, He provided a way to keep us perfectly righteous in His eyes. He sacrificed His only Son, Jesus, for the atonement of our sins. Because He loves us (with all of our faults) as only a Father can. And His one sacrificial act offers salvation for all who believe, for the entirety of our lifetimes. That is most certainly grace behind measure!
Today, I am blessed to be a mother of two teenagers. Even though I lack the patience of God, I would do just about anything for my children. I want the best for them and their lives. These two people, who actually look like me, aren’t with me every minute of the day anymore. But I am constantly praying for their protection. And, by His design, we are made in God’s image, and He wants to protect us too. Thankfully, His fatherly wisdom has been written down.
Father, God, thank You for loving us like You do – without boundaries or exceptions. Draw us into Your Word. Create in us an insatiable craving for scripture, so that we may know You more, trust in depth and walk in Your ways that offer protection and fullness. I pray, Lord, that the words of the Bible would draw us into deeper intimacy and relationship with You, our Father. May we be filled to overflowing with your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.