As our two boys grow, Jennae and I occasionally pick up a new parenting book. This is typically done when Xander is entering a new developmental phase and we find ourselves, once again, challenged in our parenting.
As I’m searching these books for guidance in how to raise our little boys to be healthy and responsible men, I often glean insight into more than just my relationship with my boys. I often gain insight into the Fatherhood of God.
Most recently I was reading Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster W. Cline and Jim Fay. Within a page and a half of this book I read two related statements that stood out to me.
The first thought:
“Our love for our children must never be conditional. This is not easy, but the benefits are enormous. Genuine love must be shown regardless of the kids’ accomplishments. That does not mean, however, that we approve of all of their actions.”
If this thought is rooted in truth, then it also reveals the very nature of God; as all truth is rooted in the character of God.
Now take this thought and set it to a backdrop of everyday experiences. Often times, love is used as a means of control. Love is withheld as a way to motivate behavior change. When the behavior changes, the love flows.
The trouble with this is that behaviors can be modified, or even hidden, while the heart remains the same. A person will conform outwardly in order to win love, but no true change has occurred, the change is only a façade.
If you are observant, you will see this all around you. Most religion is based on this mode of operation. Many families, religious or not, operate with this as the foundation for interpersonal relationship and child rearing.
When a person is controlled through the withholding of love, it communicates to them that their faults and shortcomings are barriers to love. It communicates that they are not good enough to be loved. The result is to have people living a façade to gain love while believing that their true self who exists behind that façade is an unlovable person.
Enter the second thought, a profound statement:
“Kids can’t get better until we prove to them, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they’re good enough the way they are.”
I have come to believe that this applies to more than just kids. We, as children of God, have come to believe that we are not good enough. We are hiding from God in the bushes after having eaten the forbidden fruit. We believe that we are unlovable because of our failures – and we hide from God because we believe him to be filled with only anger toward us, unable to love us because of our failure. We make coverings for ourselves to try and hide our shame, working to try and make ourselves acceptable to God.
The only thing that will set us free is to know that we are loved beyond measure as we are. In Christ, God’s love is declared for us!
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
When we understand that God loves us, that we are truly loved and accepted by him, as we are, while yet in our sin, it is only then that we are freed to finally become what He created us to be. It is when we can finally rest in His love that we are transformed by it and set free from the power of sin.