I am often amazed by the different perspective having children brings to many areas of life, and for me it has been particularly helpful as I consider the relationship between God, our everlasting Father, and us as His children. Previously, I reflected on how even the smallest, most helpless baby is precious and could not be loved more. Today, I want to consider some things I have learnt as my children have grown.
I am often amazed by the gentleness and compassion of God. ‘A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.’ (Isaiah 42 verse 3). He is a God of encouragement. ‘Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem…’ (Isaiah 40 verses 1-2) ‘But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.’ (Psalm 86 verse 15) ‘The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.’ (Psalm 145 verse 8). Through Christ, we are promised empathy, ‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.’ (Hebrews 4 verse 15). Jesus invited, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ (Matthew 11:28-29) But do we forget these things?
Our society is very ‘results orientated’ and very achievement focused. Personally, this is a worldview that I battle against, as it speaks of the wisdom of this world, rather than the things of God. ‘For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.’ (1 Corinthians 3 verse 19) I grapple with the fact that God does not love me based on what I have done or accomplished for Him, but rather because of who He is and for His glory. It is not about me! But how do you feel as a Christian when you fail? I think we all have areas of weakness in our lives, things which continue to tempt us to sin, tempt us to take our eyes off the things which really matter, things which bring us sorrow. These will differ from one person to the next. But how do you feel when you have made the same mistake again? When you have come before God in tears, asking for His forgiveness and committing to do better from then on, only to stumble at the same point time and time again? Do you believe God continues to forgive? Do you accept His forgiveness? Do you forgive yourself? After hearing what is known as ‘The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant’, the apostle ‘Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times”. The number seven is taken to represent perfection. Jesus was teaching that we must continue to forgive time after time after time, and that we can trust that God does the same for us.
What has this to do with toddlers? Well, if you have one, you will see a lot of this! ‘Sorry mummy, I won’t do it again’.’I didn’t mean to do it!’ ‘Sorry, sorry, sorry!’ But even as they say the words, you know that the same act of disobedience will occur again, within a short period. But you don’t run out of patience, but seek to correct your child and set them on the right path, seeking to ‘Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.’ (Proverbs 22 verse 6) Really? Or do you get exasperated at times? Do you feel frustrated and worn out? Do you feel as though you are on one of those ‘stairmasters’ at the gym where you continually climb to nowhere, going round and round and round? Or a hamster, trapped in its wheel? Have you ever had one of those days, where you feel almost defeated by a certain ‘battle’ (whether that be a mealtime issue, or bedtime shenanigans or some other recurring theme)? But then, once you child is asleep, you look at their peaceful innocence and feel nothing but overwhelming love, and feel a little ashamed at having felt strong emotions earlier in the day? I think I am not alone in some of this! And it reminds me just how incredible it is that God continues to love us, perfectly, steadfastly, sacrificially. We are often just like toddlers who deliberately tip their milk over their dinner for the fourth time in one day. We rebel and wrestle against the holy paths we have been called to walk. Sometimes we sulk, sometimes we ignore God, sometimes we want to shout and scream. But God continues to be compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. And the things we do before God are far more abhorrent than the misdemeanors of a toddler! It amazes me. It causes me to feel very humble. It makes me realize just how small and feeble I am before the Creator of the Universe. And it makes me realize yet again that I could never earn any of this. I could not be ‘good enough’. I could not ‘achieve enough’. I can only accept the gift that is offered with gratitude. Ephesians Chapter 2 verse 8 and 9 says this beautifully, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.’
Through raising young children, I can see more of God’s incredible love, patience, gentleness, forgiveness and compassion towards us. I appreciate more of just how perfect these attributes and virtues are! As I pray for peace, patience and wisdom in raising my family, I also pray that I can walk steadfastly, but never think that I can earn God’s love. I pray that today, I can rest in His love, knowing that it is entirely a gift of grace.