No matter what the day holds, there is something I know to expect as my children climb into bed at night.
There is something about seeing my children rest their heads down on their pillows at the end of the day… Something about the curves of their faces, and the bend of their eyelashes, the rise and fall of their chests… Something about the way middle daughter pulls a blanket up to her chin… Something about the way my eldest easily pours out all the words for which the day ran out of space… Something about the way my son sighs deep and smiles soft and nestles close, body and soul… There’s something about the way my toddler wiggles in her bed until I tuck her in just so…
No matter what chaos precedes, there is something in this moment, each and every day, that summons a thousand kisses and a tender tuck of the curl behind the ear. Something inspires me to cup the face and whisper the word of blessing and affection. Something calls for my fingers to outline the angelic faces and scratch the satiny backs. Something invites me to forget the offenses of the day, the heaviness of my eyelids, the weariness of my soul… and to remember only the ferocity of my love, the integrity of my acceptance, the vastness of my gratitude.
And it all spills right out of me.
The impassioned tenderness I would feel for my children is a thing I simply did not grasp before becoming a mother. I never knew how my heart would enlarge with every miracle of life.
And looking back, I see that before I climbed into the heart of a parent, I had not well-imagined the father heart of God towards his children.
There are dimensions of God’s love for us that cannot be contained in our limited understanding…but, nevertheless, as I feel the kind of love for my children that seems unable to be squeeze into the limits of my heart, the picture I have of God’s love gains new color and contrast, new depth and beauty.
Far more often than I’d like to admit, I see an image of my heart towards God reflected in a toddler who refuses to receive help, or a little one who cannot seem to submit to my authority. I see how easily I trust my own judgment over God’s, despite knowing better. I assume God is against me when I don’t get my way. As I have the parental wisdom that my child should not run in the street, no matter how their little bodies long for the freedom, my God has a higher perspective of the things that will hurt my heart, no matter how I might long and ache and moan.
As I sometimes need to press my little one into her carseat for the buckles she resists, sometimes, the gentle hand of my Father God restrains me, and says “Not yet” or “Not in this way.” And, I squirm with all of my irritation and assumptions about how He must not be that good. As parents, we lovingly set boundaries for our children – to keep them safe or guide their hearts. As my children push and resist and defy, my heart cries out with “Hey, I’m on your team! I am FOR you! Trust me!”
In the same way, I feel God’s call for me to trust the depth of his love, the purity of his will.
The first time a child of mine fell asleep in my arms was the last moment I considered feeling guilty or ashamed for falling asleep during a prayer. As I felt the joy and adoration of my child’s body melting into mine, I saw afresh that God’s heart towards me is exceedingly tender.
The first time I watched my child fail on the journey to learning something new – like the thousand falls on the way to learning to walk – that was the last day I perceived impatience from God towards my weakness.
The first time I saw my child run his heart out and lose, or the first time he proudly offered me a mishmash work of art as a gift specially designed for me… these were the last times I felt from my God that I hadn’t been good enough to please him. Jesus covered our sin, and God’s heart towards us is pure delight.
I still forget sometimes, but there’s a new truth in me…
As I watch my children stumble into new broken revelation about who God is, and why he made them, I am assured of God’s pleasure as I seek him with my limited understanding, with my confused and often incorrect theology. In the same way that I love to hear the name of Jesus come out of my daughter’s tiny mouth, even if to say “Jesus is so cute!” or “Jesus is in my sippy cup!,” I see that God simply loves to hear me call on his name. He delights as I lean my breath of a life and my ephemeral body of dust into his mighty eternal chest.
As I watch my children face life’s brokenness – the kind that is not at all good – I feel God’s heartbreak over the way our sin and the brokenness of the world has brought us pain and suffering that he did not design. I feel His eagerness to hold me, to bring comfort and healing and redemption, when I face hardship.
Being a mama is changing my view of the father heart of my God.
As I imagine God’s heart towards me now, I imagine the tenderness of His hand as he leads me through life’s broken places. As I beg my own children to trust me, I am endeared to God’s caring, and my own lack of understanding and perspective. I know the reality of his higher and broader and deeper understanding. I feel his unwavering longing for my good. I sense the weight of the eternal perspective he has on my heart and life. I feel his wisdom in allowing me life’s trials for the sake of my freedom, for the sake of winning my heart.
My eyes are becoming clearer to see that yes, love is the force that drives me to tell my child not to run in the street, or to allow their little failures for the sake of their growth and refinement…and likewise, love is the force that drives my God.
As I imagine God’s heart for me now, I see him holding out gifts for me to take and open and enjoy, and I hear my childish whines about how I don’t like the color of the wrapping paper.
As I imagine God’s heart for me now, I think of the magic and fun of genetics — how the features of a face, the color of eyes, the shape of cheekbones are passed between generations. I think of how my husband and I study the faces of our children saying “He has your mouth” or “She has my eyes.” And I feel God studying me, his image bearer, proudly proclaiming: “She looks like me!”
My husband and I go on a date and end up looking at pictures of our kids. We can’t stop thinking about them when we’re away. It’s a little embarrassing, but we are fiercely grateful and mildly obsessed with these amazing little people. How much more does God’s love for us never end, and our name never leave his mind? As I imagine God’s heart for me now, I think of a father who is beautifully preoccupied with me.
As I imagine God’s heart for me now, I hear his words of blessing infusing me with courage. When I embark on a new challenge or adventure, I feel him speaking confidence to proceed, and gently warning me not to wander too far. I can almost hear His voice echoing in my own encouragements and cautions, as I send my sweet ones out on their bikes. Only His voice is pure love, free from anxiety and fear. His voice makes me long to rest in his covering.
Though God is the picture of a perfect parent, and I most certainly am not, I find that I can relate to God’s heart in this holy time of parenting young children.
The father heart of God is a beauty to behold. I invite you to let the tenderness you feel towards your children endear you to the heart of God. Let your imagination rest on His pure delight in you. Imagine His eyes exploring the curves of your face, and wondering at the beauty of your soul. Imagine His warm giggles when you lift your broken works of art to Him. Imagine his bent knee to lift you from your failures and skinned knees. Imagine his tears over your heartbreaks, and imagine him gently catching those from your cheek in a bottle. Imagine his pride when you are his hands and feet on earth. Just like you pull out a photo of your child to show to a friend, God loves to show the world His glory and goodness in your very face and life. Soak in his tenderness, and let it change you. Let it put a bounce in your step, like that of a child who knows he’s loved.
My beautiful friend, today, let your imagination wander to a Father God who is kind of obsessed with you.