Knowing God's Love
“But now, this is what the Lord says – Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior …. You are precious and honored in my sight.” Selected verses from Isaiah 43
As I have contemplated what I would write here, I have looked back on my years of being a mother, and tried to remember how I felt as a young mom. You see, I am a grandmother now, and it’s been a while since I had little ones for which to be responsible!
But, as I recall my years as a young mother, I remember some feelings very clearly. The exquisite wonder of holding my firstborn son in my arms for the first time, the total, all-encompassing love for each of my children, the pride and awe I felt in their accomplishments, big and small, and then the amazing joy of seeing them become parents themselves, were emotions that I had no preparation for how intensely I would feel them.
But I also remember the frustrating feeling of utter helplessness and incompetence when my babies cried for hours on end and I had no clue how to help them, the futility of trying to reason with my two-year-olds, (then my four-year-olds, my fourteen-year-olds, and my headstrong 20-year-olds!), and the mind-numbing loneliness of being a stay-at-home mom. All of these feelings – the transformative, terrifying, heartbreaking and heartwarming beauty of all of them – define what it means to me to be a mother. This, and so much more.
With these memories in mind, what do I say to those of you who are in the thick of this incredible privilege of motherhood? As simple as it sounds, what we need the most is to know how valued, cherished, and loved by our Abba Father we are. And, once we know and experience that love in our own lives, we can help our children to know it, too.
We can say that we know that God loves us. But do we really understand that we are precious in His sight, that He knows and understands us, and that He delights in us?
It’s easy to have confidence in God’s love on the good days. But, to know that God accepts us just the way we are, and loves us unconditionally on the days when we feel like we have failed in every task, lost our temper at the smallest offense, and failed to set a good example in anything, is the what He wants for us, and for our children.
We are given the privilege to help our children experience the Father’s love as well. Teach them the song “Jesus Loves Me” when they are small. Help them to know how much God loves and values them, so that they will find comfort in this knowledge when they fail an exam, lose an important baseball game, or experience the sting of a break-up with their boyfriend or girlfriend.
Teach your daughters that they are worth waiting for, so that, in order to feel loved, they won’t give in to pressure from a boy who just wants to use them for his own pleasure. Teach your sons to respect and honor themselves as God’s priceless possessions, so that they, in turn, will treat others as His treasured possessions as well.
Of course, the right respect for God’s holiness and our need for His forgiveness of our sins and salvation is essential. With this I am learning, at this stage of my life, that what God wants from me is my fellowship – and the proper understanding of how He sees me is essential to my friendship with Him.
Being a mother has given me the truest sense of knowing how to love unconditionally, and to have a small glimpse of God's relentless, unfailing love for me in experiencing my love for my children. I can't think of any other relationship where I have been truly able to say that I love unconditionally, other than through being a mother. So many lessons in that in dealing with my boys!
I remember one day at lunch time shortly after we had moved to New England, far from my parents and family in Michigan. I was very homesick, and missed my parents and twin sister deeply. My middle son Daniel, who was a toddler then, had a habit of asking for a cookie or snack earlier in the morning, and eating a bite or two of it, then holding onto it throughout the morning. On that particular day, Daniel had some remnants of a cookie in his hand, and I had to convince him to give them to me so I could give him his lunch. I told him that he had to give me the cookie so I could give him what was best for him. It hit me like a ton of bricks that it was exactly what God was asking of me - to give Him the "cookie" of living near my family in Michigan, so He could accomplish His best will for me as I adjusted to my new home. Because Daniel trusted me, he obeyed me, even though a bit reluctantly, and gave me the cookie so I could give him his lunch. I realized that, because I trusted God's love for me, I could trust Him with the "cookies" that I held onto in my life. Even though I have obeyed reluctantly at times, when I have surrendered to God's loving sovereignty in my life, He has never failed to give me His best - even if there was pain in the offering on occasion.
Even when my boys disobeyed, when they finally came to me to apologize or confess their wrong-doing, I remember feeling that all I wanted to do was take them in my arms, tell them that all was forgiven, and all was well with the world again. As I have learned about my Abba Father's love for me, I suspect that this is how He feels when I confess my sins and failures to Him - that His heart aches for me and that He longs to restore me to loving fellowship with Him! I can imagine crawling up into His lap, letting His strong arms envelop me, and see His tender, loving gaze as He lifts my face to His and tells me that I am forgiven - and that I am His.
May God bless and keep you in His joy and grace,
Nancy Kilpatrick is currently serving as a missionary in Uganda.