Our youngest child is eighteen years old and in college! Where did the years go? Here’s a journal entry I wrote eleven years ago when I was still “Daddy.” It reminds us that the primary way we experience God’s love, especially when we’re children, is through people.
When I woke up this morning I saw that my seven-year old daughter Briana was sleeping on the floor next to the bed I share with Kristi. Apparently, as she often does when she’s had a bad dream or isn’t feeling well, she had crept into our bedroom with her pillow, sleeping bag, and “Oreo” kitty cat stuffed animal and camped out on our carpet. When she woke up she started singing a song she made up (it’s based on a Sunday school song called “My Father’s House”):
Come and go with me into my Father’s house. It has a big, big room with lots and lots of floor that we can sleep on. Come and go with me into my Father’s house. It has a big, big table with lots of time that we can all talk. And then we get to play with Jesus!
Her song melted my heart! I needed that encouragement. Sometimes I feel inadequate as a parent. In my own assessment, it seems like I can never spend “enough” time with our children. For instance, I regret the nights that I was “too busy” to join Kristi in putting them to bed with a story, song, back rub, or prayers. Or the Saturdays I was working out in the yard. Worse, I don’t like myself when I get frustrated at them.
But it goes the other way too. Sometimes I do loving things for them and they don’t notice. Or I offer to play with them or have a conversation and they don’t want to. Times like these I feel disappointed as a father, if not rejected.
Then I heard Briana’s precious song! “Come and go with me into my Father’s house…”
Thank you Father God for this delightful reminder that indeed my efforts to be “Christ’s Ambassador” to Briana are getting through! Briana is experiencing the “good enough” parenting that she needs. Her song shows that she feels that Kristi and I are a safe refuge and that she has an important seat at our family table to talk about what is important to her. She is experiencing the care of her Heavenly Father — her Abba! — through us. And so she can enjoy being herself and growing up in God’s grace.
As parents, teachers, pastors, or friends when we recall examples of God using us to care for someone in Jesus’ name it encourages us to keep giving all we can to others.
It’s also important for us to remember the child of our history and our heart. Recalling memories of times we felt cared for by a parent or someone else is nourishing and strengthening for our souls. But what if your childhood was filled with anger, addiction, or aloneness? We need to recall painful memories too and seek comfort and prayer from a safe friend so that we can heal, forgive, and learn to trust again.
A safe friend is a “Christ’s ambassador,” someone who reconciles people to God the Father by saying to them with their ears, heart, and hands: “Become a friend of God’s for he’s already a Friend to you” (2 Corinthians 5:20, NIV and MSG). At opportune moments Christ’s ambassadors communicate the grace of God in words too, but mostly they do this in their demeanor and actions. This is incarnational love.
To care for others well as Christ’s ambassadors we need to have first received care in that way. “We love because God first loved us” and the most basic way he ministers his love to us is through the Body of Christ (1 John 4:19-20). When we pass on to others the love that we’ve received, and do this for Jesus’ sake, it is the greatest joy in the world!
P.S. A reader asked me what the original song was that Briana sang in kids’ church. I think I found it! You can listen online to “Big House.” (She added some lines to her version!)