This morning, as I picked my daughter up from spending the night with my parents, I had a moment to encourage my daughter about shopping for something for her mother for valentine’s day as opposed to going to the mall to get something for her. My moment of encouragement was received as correction and we dealt with a mini breakdown of tears as she worked through the contrasting messages of generosity and selfishness in her head and heart that are hard even for us adults.
As I tried to console her and realized that it was just going to take time, my parents watched on – knowing from experience raising me the challenge that this posed to me. And as I reflected on it later (after having confirmed that her outburst was guilt/conviction and not just trying to manipulate me into getting her way) – I wondered how often my heavenly Father has seen me mess up, has corrected me, and was ready for us to learn and move forward instead of wallowing in guilt and shame.
With my daughter, I want her to learn the lessons and start applying them effectively in her life, because they are valuable and will protect her and others from pain and consequence and trouble. I don’t want her just to accept the correction, get emotional, and then return to her same mistakes over and over again. I want her to learn and grow. But even if she doesn’t get it the first time, I love her and want her to learn. If all I have ever gotten is her temporary remorse, but no lasting change, I still hold out hope for her to finally learn and change – and her crying and suffering the consequences hurts me, because I want to see her delivered from the traps and troubles.
Isn’t this how our heavenly Father is towards us as well? How often have we made it about emotional responses and apologies and sacrifices lifted up to Him – when He really just wants us to learn and change – to believe and follow?
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? –Matthew 6:26
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. –Matthew 18:12-14
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. –Luke 6:35-36
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom”. –Luke 12:32
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” –John 14:1-2
“No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. — John 16:27
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. — Romans 8:15-16
“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” — Matthew 7:9-11
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! –1 John 3:1
And what is the message all of these verses are hammering into our hearts?
You have a daddy who loves you.
He is strong enough to protect you.
He is engaged enough to teach you.
He is tender enough to hug you.
He is alive enough to play with you.
And the Number One verse regarding the love of the Father is this amazing truth– no matter how far you have wondered, you can still come home!
Regarding the prodigal son, Jesus tells us:
“When he came to his senses, he said… “I will set out and go back to my father” –Luke 15:17