I held my nephew Ashton today. He just turned 6 months. I have been very fortunate to get to babysit intermittently and to be around him often. While I was holding him and he was squealing and babbling back to me in our very animated conversation during church…haha oops. I’m not sorry. I was talking very quietly to him, but since he hasn’t learned the skill of whispering, his responses were quite vocal and it was hilarious and endearing to hear. Out of the blue, he grabbed my hair above both ears and pulled with all of his might to bring our faces together. He planted the slobberiest best enthusiastic baby kisses on my cheek and chin. Guys, I almost cried. Some because I think he yanked a fair amount of the tenderest hairs right out of the follicles…and mostly because we just had experienced a precious bonding moment. It’s the first show of adoration he has been able to master besides smiling. I just can’t even tell you what that moment did to my heart. I was slain. I would catapult my crippled body in front of a bus with gazelle like propulsion, if either of my nephews or my kids needed to be pushed out of the way. I love them so much.
Something about the first show of affection and love from a child is so overwhelming. It’s a moment where all of the time you have spent with them, keeping them safe, and trying to provide for their needs, comes together in a beautiful culmination of them showing you, “Hey, I like you. You make me feel happy and safe, and cared for.”
I didn’t get to meet one of my nephews until he was 9 years old. Life circumstances were that he came as a most wonderful gift with my new brother in law. I had prayed for years for my kids to have cousins. Our 3 kids were the only kids on both my side and my husbands side. When my sis in law brought her boyfriend to meet us, and we learned he had a son, I was excited and nervous. I wanted so badly for our kids to bond. They did. They INSTANTLY bonded. My son Alex and my nephew Dillon, nearly became siamese twins. They were attached at the hip immediately. Over time, my sis in law and her boyfriend became engaged and then married. After many overnight stays at our house and family dinners, the moment of beauty came. I was shutting the door to my boys room on a night that Dillon was sleeping over. I said, “I love you boys. and as I was shutting the door, I heard “I love you mom! Love you mom. I love you Amy!” I latched the door and stood there motionless. The tears immediately came to my eyes and my heart swelled with thankfulness. We had crossed a threshold. We finally had an aunt nephew bond. God answered my prayers in a way I hadn’t ever predicted. Our kids had a cousin around their age and I had a nephew. My cup runneth over.
These moments are sacred because these are the very moments that my nephews chose to love me back. It was wonderful. I started thinking about the beauty it is to live this love coming full circle, and suddenly my brain was flooded with the parallel of our relationship with God.
One of the things that gets so twisted and contorted by our society today, is the idea God is oppressive and cruel with rules and regulations and a forced relationship. He is none of these. In fact, He is completely non oppressive and He hates cruelty.
Let’s go to the beginning. The very beginning. Before us huminions were created. God was in Heaven with the angels and that included 1 very infamous one. My very least favorite angel ever. lucifer. Gag. The devil and father of all lies. That angel decided he felt he was just as good as God and that he should exalt himself above God. Obviously this couldn’t be and wasn’t going to work because God had created angels as well and they cannot surpass their very creator in power and glory. This prideful angel decided that he could convince a third of the angels in heaven to jump onto his ill fated bandwagon, and he approached God with it. God of course cast him and his new angel followers, down to the earth to have rule over it and not rule over heaven. Right here in this moment, we see that God didn’t even force His angels to serve and choose Him. God allowed them the free will to choose another master if they so desired. He didn’t even force His own angels to serve Him.
Here is the thing…the devil only could ever have rule over all that God wasn’t, because what God is, was already taken. God is love, goodness, selflessness, forgiveness, grace and mercy, healing, peace, and truth. That meant that since the devil no longer chose God or anything God represents, it only left him to be everything God is not. So the devil is evil, deception and lies, hate, turmoil, suffering, accusation, selfishness, cruelty, suffering, and pain.
The very fact that this is how it all began, with good, and then the emergence of evil, tells us that the decision of what we choose to love and serve, is fully our own. There was only ever 2 choices, and there will only ever be 2 choices. The love of God and what He is, or the love of the devil and what he is. We have free will. The choice is ours. We have to look at the 2 and decide what qualities we would like to take on and which master we want to serve.
Even in the Garden with Adam and Eve, God did not force their decision. God had to give them the opportunity to choose. It wasn’t out of cruelty or that He wanted to predestinate a sadistic fate. He had to offer them the choice because good and evil already existed. He didn’t want to create puppets that had no choice. God created human beings with free will. God wanted a relationship with us. A real relationship back and forth, where not only He loved us, but we chose to love Him back.
I love my husband, he is my favorite. I am so thankful he chose me. It is a sacred and precious bond because out of all the other options on this planet, he chose dorky, clumsy, goofy, quirky, awkward me. I’m like a combination of Steve Urkel, Carol Burnett, and the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’s robe. Like if you could picture a much less graceful depiction of that story. Like if a very clumsy desperate woman went to touch Jesus’s robe, and she accidentally tripped over her own robe and face planted into the dirt and out of the grace of God, still reached the hem of Jesus’s robe. That is probably more how a version featuring me would look.
Out of all of the options he had, he chose me. I chose him too. It’s a mutual adoration and love, coupled with the desire to help each other accomplish the goals and aspirations we share. We want to spend our time together. We are best friends. We are a team, we have a partnership and we have to keep choosing each other every day for this relationship train to keep chugging along.
When I gave birth to my children, I had no clue how hard it would be to raise them or how very much I would love them. I walked like sleep deprived Frankenstein through those first few months with each of my kids. Feeding them at all hours of the night because they needed to eat, cleaning poop out of what seemed like every crevice in their bodies when their diapers couldn’t handle the 75mph liquipoops, and washing my hair at 2am because a baby puked with perfect accuracy into my ear and hair. I remember thinking, this child is killing me. I am going to have a delayed death due to childbirth. The birth of this creature will end me. I’m so tired, I probably shouldn’t be entrusted with a house plant, let alone a human child. I walk, speak and drive like a drunk. When my kids gave those baby kisses for the 1st time, and when they first babbled “mum mum,” and when they said the first, “love you,” back to me… all of that stuff would melt away for a moment and it all felt worth it.
As a parent, I can tell you that I desperately hope that my children will choose to love me when they are adults. My heart will absolutely break if they chose not to. I’ve watched people who have lived the nightmare of being estranged from their children, and you can see the torment it causes. I imagine God feels the same torment when we don’t choose HIm. As a parent, you hope desperately that your kids will mature into adulthood and be able to see what you did for them. You hope they will understand the reason you had to let them struggle at times and didn’t rescue them… was so they would push themselves to try harder and build their strength and maturity. How you hope they will be able to see that all of the restrictions you enforced, were put into place for their well being and safety. You hope they will understand that you only ever wanted to love them, keep them safe, and help them reach a level of maturity that will make them a benefit to society. I believe whole heartedly that our relationship with God is the same. God, our Heavenly Father, wants to love and protect His children.
God chose to love me, long before I chose to love Him. The moments I choose Him and the qualities He stands for, probably bring Him great joy. The moments I don’t choose Him and the qualities He stands for, probably bring Him great heartache.
1st John 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.
God loves me, and I have to choose to love Him with my actions every day. I know how God knows I love Him. I have to obey Him. He is trying to keep my soul safe from the devil. God knows that if I don’t obey Him, my soul cannot belong to Him because I have to choose Him. If I don’t choose Him, I’m choosing the devil.
John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
I could post more of these scriptures but there are like 491 more scriptural instances. I think that you and I would be here for a lot longer than either of us can spare at this point in time.
It also says:
1st John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Deuteronomy 11:28 And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.
We are not forced. He doesn’t want a forced relationship. He doesn’t even force us to spend eternity with Him if we haven’t chosen that.
I used to think that God was being almost mean, by banishing people to hell for all eternity. It wasn’t until an explanation of free will really took the blurriness out of that view. I was seeing it all wrong. God gives us and opportunity in life to decide who we want to spend eternity with. Did we choose God’s presence and qualities in this life or did we reject Him? When we are judged, He is only honoring the decisions we made in life. If we don’t choose Him in life, He won’t force us to stay in His presence in death either. Hell is torment because all things good are of God. Hell is a complete lack of God, and therefore a complete lack of good. The only qualities hell can embody, are the qualities that were left over for the devil.
Joshua 24: 15
- And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye willserve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
He loves us. He want us to choose Him. He wants us to be passionate about our love for Him. He wants us to love Him so much that it drives our decisions and fuels the dedication to accomplishing His work. He wants us to reflect who He is. He wants us to be and stand for love, goodness, selflessness, forgiveness, grace and mercy, gentleness, healing, peace, and truth. When God see’s these qualities in us, and sees that we are choosing Him, it has to feel like those precious first expressions of affection from my nephews and my own children. It probably feels wonderful to God, to see that after all He has done for us…even sacrificing His own son, that He gets to feel affection back from us. That through our dedication and commitment to Him, He feels our love for Him.
There is nothing that could make me stop loving my children. I will always be here for them to the best of my ability. I am vulnerable to their choices too. When they are adults, their decisions dictate my involvement in their lives. They could choose to stay close, or walk away, or yo yo back and forth. I just know that I want to be there for them if they choose, no matter what. If my children choose to walk away…I will use my Heavenly Fathers example and set up camp and I will hope and wait for them.