One of my favorite pasttimes is eavesdropping on my children.
Of course, opportunities to do so arise rarely. I’m usually in close contact with my kids, and when I’m not, it’s because I’m trying to fend them off so I can accomplish something productive (or eat chocolate in secret). Every so often, though, I manage to observe them undetected. I peek through the windows of their Sunday School rooms; listen outside the door while they’re playing nicely together at home (did I mention that this happens rarely?); or sneak into their bedrooms after dark to marvel, once again, at how beautiful they are when they sleep.
On one of these occasions, as I gazed intently at my precious little girl, it suddenly hit me: They really have no idea how much I love them.
In fact, they probably suspect, sometimes, that I don’t love them. Frankly, it’s not always easy. They often resent my interference with their goals; they take much more than they give; when I do something special with them, they complain when it’s over instead of thanking me for a fun time; and, on the whole, they don’t truly believe that I have their best interests in mind.
None of this, however, alters the fact that I am head over heels for these baffling little creatures. Why? Sure, they’re cute — and sometimes they’re fun — but factoring in both the good and the bad, I can’t say they’ve earned it. The truth is: I love them because they are mine.
Only as adults will they truly begin to grasp this. I know, because the same is true for me. Although young adulthood taught me to appreciate my parents more and more, I had yet to recognize the depth and self-sacrificial nature of their love for me…to realize that this love didn’t reflect how lovable and charming I was, but how faithful and selfless they were.
Who else displays this depth of devotion — this boundless love, undeserved yet freely bestowed? Only one Person — and I, like a child, am not only undeserving of His love, but am wholly incapable of grasping its immensity. When I think on the vast difference between my children’s love and mine, it stuns me to consider the immeasurably greater difference between my love and God’s.
In truth, my confidence in God’s love sometimes wavers. I occasionally question His plans. I act out of selfishness and pride instead of gratitude and trust. In fact — let me be perfectly honest — I can be a real ingrate. And yet He loves me with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3), not because of my character…but because of His. This assurance quells my fears and puts my doubts to rest…and the longer I know Him, the more deeply I experience and believe in His love for me.
Whether you have children or not…whether your relationship with your own parents brings joy or frustration…you can be assured that our Father’s love is perfect. He is the Parent in whose image every parent was created; we are the children who bear that same image, and with whom He desires an intimate relationship…whom He pursues passionately, even when, like the prodigal son, we stray far from home in search of our own foolish desires. As time passes, I marvel more and more at the awesome truth expressed in 1 John 3:1:
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”