The older I get and the further along I get in parenting the more I feel like I understand the heart of God. I grew up in church and Sunday school and knew that Jesus loves me from a very young age, but honestly, up until the last few years I didn't understand how deep and how wide. I didn't understand how fierce and so raw or how gentle and tender God's heart really is.
In the past few months, many friends of mine had major life changing moments with their kids. Some have undergone severe illnesses and risky surgeries, some have sent their children off to college and the military and some have sat awake night after night praying for their child's fear and confusion to cease. I, personally, haven't had any of these moments but they're on their way I know. I simply sent my older kids off to church camp for a week and was surprised at myself as I drove home in the car with tears stinging my eyes praying that they would be safe, be kind to someone who needed a friend and learn to love the Lord just a little bit more. If summer camp brought that much emotion to my heart, I can only imagine what college, marriage, grand children and all the rest will do to me. (Begin praying for my sweet husband now.)
But what God has revealed to me in all of this is that His Word is not full of trite, pat answers to life. While some of it looks great on a coffee mug or framed artwork in the sitting room, it's really the revelation of His heart for us as a parent. From the kind promise of Jeremiah 31:3 - "the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." to Exodus 34:14 - "For you must not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God - God's love is eternal, immense and intense.
I misunderstood that Exodus verse for a long time. I saw that word jealous and I could only think of the jealous and emotionally abusive boyfriend who controlled me as a teen. That word jealous kept me from wanting to know the Lord too closely because perhaps, He would turn out to be controlling and belittling to me. As a parent of three beautiful girls, I now know that word "jealous" points to the protective, "Mama Bear" care I have for my girls. I would fight tooth and nail and climb over any obstacle to keep them from harm or destruction. And if I feel this way in my heart, how much more did Jesus feel as he climbed the hill to Calvary with a cross on His back to die for the entire world's sin? Can you even fathom? I cannot.
So as we parents send our kiddos off down the hall for the surgery, down the road to boot camp or out for their first date, we say and pray things like:
Come back to me whole and in one piece!
Make good choices and be a good friend!
Remember everything I taught you!
Don't believe the lies of the world!
Remember that I love you the most!
Without even knowing it, we are speaking the heart of God to our children.
And rend your heart and not your garments "Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness and relenting of evil.
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
I think sometimes we struggle as parents between tough and tender love. We strive not to be the hovering helicopter parents that get a bad rap for coddling and protecting their children. But lately, I've learned to press in to that love for my children a little bit harder because it helps me to understand the love my Father in heaven has for me just a little bit more.