I am very blessed to be the mother of three of the most perfect, monstrous little human beings on the planet. Eric and I have two sons (Cadence, 6 ½ years and Chase, 3 years) and one daughter (Aspen, 5 years). They have introduced into our lives more joy, chaos, frustration, and love than we could ever have imagined! And new understanding of God as a parent. (Plus, as an added bonus of none of us knowing what we’re doing, I pray a lot more!)
When putting the kids to bed we always snuggle, pray for their dreams, and tell them for the 50th time that day that we love them and are proud of them. I will never forget the first time my son Cadence, then 4 years old, responded with, “For what?”
It took me aback at first, because I simply wasn’t ready for him to question that quite so young. But recovering, I explained that I’m proud of him not for anything he does, but because he is mine. I explained that I love the funny, awesome, creative little guy that he is, and that he doesn’t have to do anything at all for me to be proud of him. He listened, nodded in understanding, and went to sleep.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I immediately began to flip through the mental catalog of our interactions, looking for what could have planted the seed that he had to earn my pride, when I felt the Lord interrupt me. He gently spoke to me that this is a voice that all humans hear—the one that tells us that love is something to be earned rather than to be received. It starts young and yells loudly, and only He can speak Truth more powerful.
It is in these moments that I’m reminded that God is the first and ultimate Parent. How often do I respond in the same way my son did? How often does God offer to me a gift, unearned and undeserved, just because I am His child, and I set it down and run off to earn it first? How heartbreaking it must be for Him to know that He has so much more for us:
A life without striving.
A life without shame.
A life where we are known fully, and still loved fully.
Timothy Keller said, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
To try to earn God’s approval is common to all humans, I believe, but it’s possible that it hits hardest for those of us who are in the business of serving Him.
So hear me again today, minister of the Gospel: your Father already loves you, already approves of you, and is already proud of you, no matter what you do (or don’t do) today. You are loved because you are His, and nothing can add to that or take anything away.
And that, my friends, is enough.