“Stop crying and then I’ll hold you.”
The words were hardly out of my mouth before I felt a pang of conviction go through my heart. Sometimes a truth about the gospel hits me out of nowhere. In a completely mundane moment when God’s truth pricks me like a needle and reveals where I have a lack of understanding about His character.
Young children often cry for, what seems to an adult anyway, no reason at all. With children demanding my attention all day long I sometimes grow weary. While I love that they need me, there are times when their constant needing me gets wearisome.
In that moment, though, God immediately convicted me that I was not being a parent to my child in the way that God parents me. I was not loving unconditionally. I was asking for a behavioral change before I extended my arms of love and grace.
That is not how God parents me. God never asks me to change my attitude before he shows me love. Ever.
While as parents we claim unconditional love, I realize that I am still learning what unconditional love is. I believe I do love my children constantly, but I am still growing in my unconditional love. I am still growing in this kind of love because I am still learning and growing in my understanding of how God loves me.
In other words, I don’t think there is ever a time when I don’t love them. But I sometimes wonder if I communicate by my actions that I could love them more if they behaved a certain way.
I always love you, honey. (But I might love you more if you were always kind.)
I always love you. (But I might love you more if you obeyed all the time.)
I always love you. (But I might love you more if you choose a certain career or life vocation.)
God hates sin. Always. But never does it tell us in Scripture that he loves us less if we sin, or more if we make wise choices. In fact, the opposite is true. His love is truly unconditional.
The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you (Jer. 31:3).
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 Jn. 4:9-10).
If we are faithless, He remains faithful (II Tim. 2:13).
In parenting, and in life, it is crucial that we never emphasize one truth to the neglect of another.
“[E]very heresy is due to an overemphasis upon some truth, without allowing other truths to qualify and balance it.” John Stott
We could emphasize God’s unconditional love to the neglect of His hatred for sin. Or we could emphasize God’s hatred of sin to the neglect of His unconditional love.
No parent will do this perfectly. As I seek to parent, however, I am striving to parent my children, not the way a model family parents or some well-known Christian parenting author suggests, but simply as my heavenly Father parents me.
This in many ways simplifies things. And yet I find that I am having to dig deeper to know my God more, because I have not truly grasped His unfailing characteristics.
God loves me unconditionally. He loved me when I was still dead in my sins. He loves me now. Never does His love increase or decrease based on my performance. That is the Gospel.
I was literally hit with it as if it was a truth I had never heard before. Right in that moment as I demanded a change in my daughter’s behavior before I extended my physical arms, I was struck with the amazing, incredible truth of God’s unconditional love.
I gathered her in my arms. I whispered in her ear, “Mommy’s sorry. You never have to do anything to have Mommy’s arms wrapped around you in love and comfort. Ever.”
I pray that I will understand more of God’s unconditional love for me. I pray that I will model that same unconditional love for my children and that they will always sense that. And I pray that some day my children will fully understand God’s unconditional love themselves someday.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Eph. 2:4-5).
I’m thankful for that moment. Not only did it change my actions in that brief parenting moment, but it gave me a fresh understanding of the gospel.
God’s unconditional love is truly amazing.