III. Parental Generosity
A few years ago I stood in a native village in the South Pacific, watching the children play. It occurred to me that these children would very seldom hear the words, "Don't touch that! Leave it alone! Be careful!" Their homes were simple, consisting of earth floors, thatched roofs, and mats that rolled down to serve as walls at night.
In contrast, our modern homes are stuffed with expensive and fragile furnishings and appliances that represent a minefield of potential rejection and rebuke for inquisitive toddlers. How many mothers have exploded in anger at a child who has damaged a treasured object of great expense or sentimental value. Children are constantly reminded of the importance of things - their value, and how to care for them. Very few times do they hear the simple words, "I love you."
A repetitious and destructive chant is working its way into the subconscious minds of our children, "Things are more important than me. Things are more important than me!" What are we to do? Abandon our modem homes? Obviously not. But we do need to realize that our concept of God's generosity may have been crippled by our childhood experiences.
The truth is that God is innately generous. Creation shows an extravagance of color, complexity, and design that goes far beyond simple functional value. At this moment, high in the Italian Alps, a tiny white flower glistens in the sunlight. It has never been seen by the human eye in all of its seasons of bloom. It is not an essential part of the food chain. It was created by God in the hope that one day a son of Adam or a daughter of Eve might glance at it and be blessed by its beauty.
The greatest demonstration of God's father heart seems to come with His attention to the details of our life. He surprises us with those extra things, those little pleasures and treasures that only a father would know we yearn for. God is not stingy, possessive, or materialistic. We use people to get things, He uses things to bless people.
My family and I have worked as missionaries since 1972, trusting God for our daily needs. Our testimony is that in providing for us, God goes far beyond or basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter. We serve a truly generous God! The Psalmist said, "Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it." (Psalm 37:3-5 NASB)
IV. Parental Affection
Do you have any idea how attractive you are to God? One of the biggest hindrances to our walk with Him is a sense that our flesh is repulsive to Him because of sin. When my small son is covered with mud from the back yard, I pick him up and clean him off with the garden hose. I reject the mud, not the boy. Yes, you have sinned. Yes, you have broken God's heart. But you are still the center of God's affections - the apple of His eye. It is He who pursues us with a forgiving heart. We say, "I found the Lord," but the truth is, He found us.
Many children, particularly boys, have had no physical display of affection from their fathers, or no real compassion when they are hurt. Because of our false concept of masculinity, we are told, "Don't cry son, boys don't cry." Jesus is not like that. His compassion and understanding are measureless. He feels our hurts more deeply than we do because His sensitivity to suffering is so much greater.
I once had to hold my screaming two-year-old while a doctor stitched a large gash in his forehead. He quickly forgot his painful experience and fell asleep in my arms. But I was tormented by the experience and grieved for hours. You have forgotten most of your pains, but God has not. He has perfect recall of every moment of your life. Your tears are still mingled with His at this very moment
God was there when you experienced cruel teasing in the school yard and you walked alone avoiding the eyes of others. When you sat in a math class confused and dejected, He was with you. At the age of four when you got lost at the county fair and wandered terrified through the huge crowd, it was God who turned the heart of that kind lady who helped you find your mother. "I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love." (Hosea 11:4 NIV)
Sometimes we don't understand what a fussy, doting Father God is. Your parents may proudly display bronzed baby booties on the mantle, pictures in an album, or trophies on the wall - but how does that compare with God's infinite capacity to be overjoyed with your every success? It was actually God who heard you speak your first real word. The hours you spent alone exploring new textures with baby hands were a delight to your Heavenly Father. Some of His greatest treasures are the memories of your childhood laughter. There has never been another child like you, and there never will be.
Moses once invoked a blessing on each of the tribes of Israel. To one tribe he said, "You shall dwell between the shoulders of God." What a fantastic blessing! But that is where you dwell also. Whatever you become in the eyes of men, even a person of great authority, fame, or title, you will never cease to be more or less than a babe in the arms of God.
V. Parental Attentiveness
There is one attribute of God that not even the best parent can hope to imitate - that is God's ability to be with you all the time. As parents we just cannot give constant attention 24 hours a day. We are finite beings who can only focus on one thing at a time. Not only is God with you all the time, but He gives you His whole attention. "Let Him have all your worries and cares, for He is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you." (I Peter5:7 LB)
God is constantly thinking an uninterrupted stream of loving thoughts toward you as though nobody else in the world exists. You say, "How does He do that? How can He be personally involved with billions of individuals at the same time?" I don't know, but I know it's no problem for the Creator of the world. Perhaps the explanation is the speed of His thought. There are 5 billion people on this planet. God has created things in nature that pulsate at incredible speed. I have heard that the quartz crystal's molecular structure vibrates at the speed of 9 billion movements per second. If God could only think that fast, He could think a loving thought towards you about twice every second without straining His ability to relate to the rest of His children. Who knows how He does it? Just enjoy it! As far as you are concerned, it's just you and God. You don't have to get His attention, He's already listening. Don't worry about taking His time... it's all yours.
Your parents were often preoccupied with their activities, and sometimes showed no vital interest in the small events of your life, but God is not that way. He cares. He is a God of detail. Why does the Bible say that God has numbered the hairs of your head? Not because God is concerned with abstract mathematics. He's not a computer wanting data, it's just that He's trying to tell us in what detail He knows us and cares about our lives.
A little boy has worked all afternoon pounding nails into pieces of scrap wood. He finally emerges from the garage and shows a three-level battleship to mom. He can't wait until dad gets home. Dad is late. At 6:30 a tired, preoccupied man finally arrives. A cold dinner is waiting, and so are the income tax forms. The excited boy proudly displays his handiwork to a daddy who barely looks up from the calculator. Daddy never looked, never appreciated, but God did. Father God always looked, always took delight in the work of your hands. He's your real Father, always will be. Don't ever resent the failings of your human parents. They are just kids that grew up and had kids. Rather rejoice in the wonderful love of your Father God.
VI. Parental Acceptance
We live in a performance-oriented society. Acceptance is always conditional - if you make the football team, if you bring home a good report card, if you look pretty, if you have money, if you win. The kingdom of this world is a kingdom of rejection. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of unconditional love. God's promises are conditional, we must obey Him to see blessing, but His love is unconditional. You don't have to wait to experience the love of God. Come as you are. Just be honest with Him about your sin - He delights to forgive you. Even in the depths of your past rebellion He still loved you. Even God's judgments are motivated by love.
Many of you have an inability to receive God's love and approval. You are trapped in a slave-like relationship with the harsh god of your imagination. A true love relationship involves the giving and receiving of love responses. There's one night I will always remember - the night I proposed to my wife, Julie. I kissed her and asked her to marry me. What if she had responded like this, "I'll wash your socks, I'll clean your car, and I'll type your letters." I didn't want to hear that! I wanted a response that matched my feelings of love for her. I wanted to know that she felt the same way about me.
What is your response to God when He simply says He loves you? Can you "Be still and know that He is God" without rushing into frantic activity to earn His approval? (Psalm 46:10 KJV) One of the greatest pictures of human peace and contentment is that of a baby asleep in the arms of a mother after having been fed at the breast. The child no longer squirms and demands, but rests in the embrace of loving arms. A deep mellow contentment wells up into the sound of a lullaby sung by mothers at times like this. The prophet Zephaniah described a similar emotion in the heart of God. "He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy, He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing." (Zeph. 3:17 KJV)
Don't be so restless in the presence of God. Corrie ten Boom had some simple advice to offer this generation. She who experienced so much suffering at the hands of the Nazis, yet went on to great spiritual victory, once said to my friends and me, "Don't wrestle... nestle." What a profound but simple truth.
God already loves you. All through life you have had to perform and compete. Even as a tiny baby you were compared with other babies. People said you were "too fat," or "too thin," or had "his legs" or "her nose," but God delighted in your uniqueness and still does. It's when you bask in the love of the Father that you cause God to "rest in His love and joy over you with singing."
Yes, there is much to be done in your life and through your life. There will be days when God comes bringing deep conviction of sin, showing you areas of your life that need to be changed, committed and submitted to Him. But God is not always demanding changes. He knows our limits and He gives us the grace and power to do the things He asks of us. He is tender and compassionate. Most of the time He just says, "I love you," and softly speaks your name.
If you see that you have been hindered in your relationship with God due to some kind of failure of parental love, then take these things to the Lord. You must find forgiveness in your heart towards anyone who has hurt you. If you don't, your bitterness will consume you and you will find no peace with God. Realize, too, that you are not alone. I haven't met a perfect person yet, or a parent who hasn't made mistakes. Everyone has suffered some kind of hurts in their life. One of the keys for release is found in forgiveness. The important thing is that you go forward and get to know God for who He really is - not who you think He is. He is the Perfect Parent. He always disciplines in love. He is faithful, generous, kind, and just He loves you and He longs to spend time with you. He wants you to receive His love and know that you are a special and unique person to Him. Will you receive God's love and affection? Won't you open up and enter into an intimate relationship with your true Father? He is patiently waiting for you to come. It is my prayer that you will realize His love for you and respond to the father heart of God.