The only person I may mention on my blog more than Jesus is my daughter Noelle, who is now seven weeks old.
I’ve developed a nasty habit that whenever she smiles at me or does something overwhelmingly cute my knee jerk reaction is to exclaim “I love you!” to her beautiful little face.
I’ll say it to save you from having to: what a terrible father I am. We’re all on the same page at least.
The reason I’m making such a big deal out of this, so much so that it’s worthy of its own post, is how the simple “I love you” can inevitably end up sending a very destructive message of “I love you Noelle when you do something good,” which implies “when you do something bad I may not love you.”
As a parent this is a huge, yet easily made, mistake (well I’m assuming, I’ve only been at this for a few weeks really).
The mess grows larger still when you consider the fact that God and I share the title of “father.” Therefore it is possible that what I do as a father could shape and inform Noelle’s idea of who God the father is and what he does/what he’s like. A father who only seems pleased when you’re doing well can morph into a God only loves under the same strict conditions.
This seems like basic stuff – the whole “God doesn’t love us or hate us based on our behavior, his love is unchanging,” I know everyone knows that, however it creeps up constantly. Anytime I know I’ve done wrong I either put off praying altogether or I return to God pleading my case for him to love me again, as if he experienced a lapse in this. It’s outright ridiculous, and I know it – yet I can’t outthink it.
I suspect this is not a problem specific and exclusive to me.
I don’t have solutions to offer. I’m sure it’s been written a thousand times that the way out is to know your “identity in Christ,” though the meaning of that has been elusive, if not evasive for me. I imagine though that about the only way to fight back is to make a conscious effort to remember God’s love is not swayed by behavior or circumstances. It’s not an option.
When some groups of Christians present the gospel message they turn the cross into a formula for salvation where Jesus’ death allows for the possibility of God’s love and forgiveness. Without, no one is forgiven. Maybe the danger there is that it makes it sound like God’s love is not eternal, and that it is indeed changing. I like to think that God’s love for his children (religious or not) has always been there, and wasn’t introduced by Jesus. That may sound scandalous.
I can attest that my love for my daughter exists outside of behavior guidelines, and that my love will not be influenced. It is not living in that kind of realm. And I’m just a guy in Oregon – imagine God as a father.