Any day now, she will begin walking. My daughter has been moving from couch to table and scooting along, but has yet to take her first unaided steps. We have walked the halls of our home, hand in hand, as she learns her way. Those moments of eye contact are as pure and precious as I have ever known.
The writer of Ecclesiastes says there is nothing new under the sun. But there is a time where everything is new for you. And then there is a time where things are new again.
Parents of older children have asked me, “did you ever think you could love someone so much the instant you saw them?” I am often unprepared for the tenderness my little girl reveals in me, and how I treasure the smallest of moments with her.
And even though we wish she would start walking, we know it means saying goodbye to the slap-slap-slap of her hands upon the hardwood floor. In this it is ever more plain to me how slow we as humans develop. I keep looking at her and wanting the (first) next step. Then I think, she will learn to walk. It is a natural part of development, and it will come in time. That helps me wait.
In a season where I have longed for my own growth, to finally overcome my lack of discipline, my pride, or any of the items on my mental list of the better me, I am frustrated at how long it seems to take to master the first step. But God knows exactly how long it will take, and what is forming in me for the change to happen. Where I seem to keep crawling, his grace takes me hand in hand, it helps me lean into him as I learn my footsteps.
This leaning teaches me. My daughter is not old enough yet to realize my failures, she has no framework for distrust in her father at one year old. But it is coming. Whether it be my sin, or someone else’s, she will learn pain and fear and regret amidst all the good and beautiful and true things that life has to offer. She will have to learn how to trust and believe what is true.
The call to my anxious heart could not be more timely. God is a good father, who gives himself and is trustworthy. He will never leave his children, nor forsake them due to their performance. I consistently base my expectation of God’s love towards me on my experience of the inherent failures of every human relationship in my life, instead of the inherent lack of failure at any level in the life of Jesus Christ who is my covering. To believe this more quickly and more deeply is the growth I need – that God is a good father to me despite me because of Jesus.
To believe this in itself is a work of faith, the gift of God.
In a prayer for the believers of the early church, the apostle Paul asked God that Christ would dwell in the hearts of these believers through faith. He asked that through presence of Christ in their heart they would be rooted and grounded in love. This gift of stability and foundation would enable them to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love, to apprehend and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that they might be filled with all the fullness of God.
Paul prayed that these believers might see God’s goodness and believe in Him despite all which would tempt them to doubt (like their own failures to walk faithfully in holiness). That they could re-read sections of this same letter and believe that God is a God who lavishes his kindness upon his children because of Jesus. He wants their good and is working for it in Christ. What a living promise of our inheritance as his child! To delight with long-abandoned wonder in beauty that is more real and true than the things we can now touch and hold.
I want my heart to grasp his character with more faith and sight each day. I want roots and stability in love through the gift of faith that I might relish in the kindness of God’s love towards me in his son, and as his child. Which transforms the days I rate myself high and low, where I swing between pride and self condemnation into days where I quit looking at myself and look more intently at the goodness of God. Even in the midst of a tantrum it is a new experience for me to both recognize failure and be moved in love towards my child. God does the same towards us, unmoved by our failure because of Christ, and pursuing us in love as his children.
Recently I sat with a few friends as we spoke of our children and the unexpected moments with each new season of development. One brother said, “I was looking at my son recently and it clicked in my head. All the love I feel in my heart, the fullness and depth that wells up, that’s what my dad felt when he looked at me.”
Believer, that’s what God feels when he looks at you in Christ. It’s not selfish to delight in his love, or to thank him for it. What good father would not welcome the affection of his children and rejoice in the sharing of their love? It is our learned distrust and inherent separation from him that he gives us faith to overcome in Christ. He loves us because of Jesus and invites us into life with him, helping us grow up and develop into all that he would have us to be. It is because of God’s beauty in his God-ness and as the good father that we come to him, where things become new again in a deeper, truer way than before.
By grace we trade the slap-slap-slap of our hands to take his own and lean into Him for our lives.