How Disobedient Kids Taught Me About God's Love
- Jay Sampson Teaching Elder at Heritage Church, Shawnee, Oklahoma
- 2014 3 Feb
There are many ways in which having children is a refining process of God that I never expected. I mean, I heard all the jokes about hearing your parents' voices coming out of your mouth. I am well acquainted with the sensation of wanting to steal a glance back over your shoulder right in the middle of a Hemingway-worthy diatribe about the existential goodness of picking up one's clothes. That sudden surety that if you were to turn around, there would be your father speaking the words that you were only lip-syncing. There would be your mother at the controls of a remote that was not only dictating your choice of verbiage but was even moving your limbs in the EXACT SAME WAY that she used to! I have found that, the older I get, the smarter my parents were.
However, there is one very profound way in which I did NOT expect that God would use my children to mold me. Reference the aforementioned Hemingway-worthy diatribe. There are often poignant moments in the midst of the cascade of well-strung hyperbole that I hear not the voice of my parents, but the gentle nudge of my Savior. I have no Scriptural basis for this next observation, as if there is a chapter and verse that I can quote that reads, “Jesus smirked.” But, in my imagination that is precisely what is happening. My patient, benevolent Father has taken the opportunity of my own progeny to have a conversation with me. I tend to be one who learns more from snapshots and situations than I do from study.
The best analogy I can think of to explain this reality is that there is a vast difference of appreciation and apprehension between reading a recipe and devouring a delicacy. I had read of God's love for me and even believed it to a certain depth, but I was made to taste that love when I reflected on my love for my own children. I had read about his unconditional love, but I was made to savor that forgiveness when I thought on my own relationship to my kids. By definition, I cannot “out-love” God. I can't even get in the same ballpark. In fact, any love that I show is but an echo of the One who IS Love. If he loves me exponentially more than I love my own children (which he must), then that is a humbling reality.
Allow me to make a particular application of that realization. On occasion, one of my children will make a poor choice in word or action. Hard to believe, but it's true. On those occasions, it is my privilege as their father to correct and instruct them. Something I have noticed in at least two of my offspring is that, when confronted with the reality of their disobedience, the last thing they want to do is admit it. It's not that they are trying to justify themselves, the reality is that they know their actions disappointed me or caused me frustration and they don't want that to be true. They don't WANT to disappoint me and in their little minds, the shortest route out of that guilt is to act like it didn't happen. The thinking is something like, “if I say I don't know why I did that or don't admit that I did it at all, maybe dad won't think it really happened.” Isn't that precious. And a lie. If left unchecked, the pattern of lying to avoid responsibility can become an easy and safe escape – as well as a deadly one.
Here's the thing: AS I AM HAVING THIS CONVERSATION, I hear myself. I look into those little eyes so earnestly wanting to not be wrong and I see myself. I see myself before others and I see myself before God. What the Father is revealing to me in those moments is that I have a bent to act before him precisely the way that my children are acting before me. I sin. I sin on purpose. I don't want it to be TRUE that I sin on purpose. So, the easiest way to avoid the reality of my dark heart is to not admit to its darkness. As silly as it sounds, I think my hope is that if I don't admit my failure before God, maybe he won't recognize it... I don't want my failure to be true – but it is. I tell my children that if they will just be honest with me then we can deal with the action or attitude and be restored in our relationship with one another. That sounds eerily familiar to believers, doesn't it? God tells me that, “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins...” (1 John 1:9) If I refuse to confess, I refuse to be forgiven. But IF I confess, he WILL forgive. Not only that, he will do for me what I cannot do for my children, he will CLEANSE me from all unrighteousness! Not only that, but immediately following that awesome declaration, the apostle writes, “If we say we have not sinned, we make HIM a liar, and his word is not in us.” Simply, when we refuse to confess sin of which we are convicted someone is lying – either me or the Spirit of God. Smart money is on me...
In a moment of brilliant lucidity (which, if you know me, you know I could NEVER take credit for!), the next conversation with my children goes like this: “You know, when your mom and I decided to have children, there were some things we knew. We knew that they would bring us a lot of joy. We also knew they would bring us pain. We knew they would make bad decisions. We knew they would do wrong things. And you know what? We decided to have children anyway.” With a deafening light, God opened my mind to understand with a little more depth what he meant when he had Paul write, “but God shows his LOVE for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Our enemy would have us believe that, if we drag sin into the light and confess it, God will be disappointed and surprised. Not being belligerent but not being honest then, we hide. We smile at God and try to do better, hoping that the Almighty may be distracted by our spiritual slight-of-hand and not notice the sin that we're trying to convince ourselves doesn't exist. The more we hide, the further we are away – which is precisely where our adversary wants us. Don't buy it. You will not confess to God what he doesn't already know and has not already promised to forgive and cleanse.
When he revealed himself to you and gave you faith to believe, he knew who you were, who you are and who you would be. And he knew that he loved you anyway.
Jay Sampson is the Teaching Elder at Heritage Church in Shawnee, Oklahoma where he pastors literally tens of people every week. A father of three and aspiring fantasy baseball champion, Jay has been teaching at Heritage since 2007. Weekly podcasts can be found at www.heritageshawnee.org.
Publication date: February 3, 2014