With the recent celebration of Father’s Day, I’ve come to an interesting realization.
I, like many of us, grapple with the issue that a good God could love me knowing some of the things I’ve done. He knows where I’ve been, and He knows what’s inside me in my darkest moments. How could He even love me in the first place, let alone keep loving me?
I’ve interacted with enough people on this topic to know I’m not the only one who wonders these things. And many who don’t wonder about it consciously, are influenced by it subconsciously.
The source? I think it comes from various places. Some of us were taught about a God who was a vengeful punisher, a taskmaster just waiting for us to slip up. Some were raised by fathers who didn’t exactly model unconditional love. And some – well, we just never developed a good understanding of God for some other reason.
I realized recently that the best way to understand God’s love is not based on the impressions I developed about God from teaching or observation. The thing that recently flipped on the light bulb for me was my own heart as a father.
Let me explain.
I have three daughters. They are all adults now. I know I’ve not always been the best dad to them, but here is what I do know:
First, I love each of them so much that a moment’s reflection fills my heart to bursting.
Second, they did not need to do anything to earn my love for them. I loved them since the day I met them. I loved them because they belonged to me, because God instilled a responsibility and care for them within me, and most of all just because they were. Their existence was the only real reason I needed.
Sure, they were cute, but that’s not why I loved them.
Sure, they demonstrated their love for me repeatedly over the two-plus decades of their lives, but that’s not why I loved them.
Sure, they said some amazing things, and they made cool projects at school, and they snuggled with me and watched funny cartoons with me, and bonded with me in a million ways. But that’s not why I loved them.
I loved them before they even had a conscious thought about doing any of those things or even loving me at all. When all they could do was cry and eat, I already loved them…immensely. I loved them first.
Third, there is nothing they can do to make me stop loving them. They could mess up repeatedly in infinite ways, and I would still love them the same.
They could run off like the prodigal son to spend all of my money; they could cheat and steal; they could land in jail or rehab. And I would still love them the same.
They could hurt me deeply and hurt my loved ones, and I would still love them the same.
The love I have for them, that they did nothing to earn, cannot be nullified by anything they do either!
All of this I know in the depths of my being. I live it. I feel it. This moment as each of their names and faces crosses my mind my heart literally aches to see them.
Do you see where I’m going with this? I’m not trying to put myself on a pedestal and campaign for ‘Father of the Year’. Lord knows – and many people will testify – that I’ve got way too many faults for that. I’m just being honest about my heart and my true feelings.
And if I as an earthly, human, flawed father can have this sort of unconditional love in my heart for my children, why do I find it so hard to grasp that my heavenly Father would love me the same?
To rephrase the question, why do I think God could stop loving me because of my mistakes or brokenness, when I know in my heart of hearts I could never stop loving my kids no matter what their mistakes or brokenness?
Here is what scripture says:
- He loved us first (see 1 John 4:19).
- He loved us not because we earned it but because we exist and because love is Who He Is! (see 1 John 4:8, 16).
- He will never stop loving us (see Jeremiah 31:3, Hebrews 13:5, Romans 8:35-39)
So why do I live like His love can be less than mine, more conditional, more fleeting? (I would never say that out loud, but my fears and doubts reveal exactly that.)
Maybe you’re not a parent, and maybe you didn’t have a good parent to model this. If that is true, I am sincerely sorry. My intent is never to draw out pain, but to encourage.
My hope is that everyone can connect with this on some level, and that somehow this brings a new level of understanding to a fundamental reality:
He loved us first. He loves us always. He loves…no matter what.