By Jodi Hiser
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (I John 4:10)
Back when my kids were a herd of littles, my relationships with them revolved largely around the task of training them in obedience. But over the past few years, I have found myself in a new stage of motherhood. It is vastly different from those physically strenuous days of training, baby-food making, nose-wiping, and wooden spoon-carrying (in the convenient and ever-handy spot of my back pocket).
Now that my children are older, my efforts have shifted. We have moved from the era of teaching them how to obey into a season of building intimate relationships. With every year of maturity that my kids gather under their belt, my efforts are targeted towards deepening our fellowship together–keeping their hearts through a relationship of love, guidance, grace and mutual respect. This season requires the process of studying each of my children individually, tweaking our homelife and schedule based upon their needs that are ever changing and evolving.
As a mom, my job is to meet them where they are, and love them according to what fits their needs.
My oldest daughter needs quality time. For me to love her well, I must be available for a regular lunch of her favorite sushi, or a midnight conversation that is pressing upon her heart, even though my bed is calling to me and my body complains for sleep.
My second child longs for my thoughtfulness towards him and his day. He feels loved when I make coffee just for him, and we sit at the table together, discussing his latest political opinions.
Our third child prefers quiet drives. He needs practice for his upcoming driver’s test, and feels loved when I ask him to be my chauffeur. And while we drive, he likes to share with me the story plot behind the most recent spy novel that he’s reading.
Our fourth child desires hugs, hugs, and more hugs. She loves to snuggle and be close to me. The best way that I can love her is to cuddle up beside her on the couch, knee to knee and shoulder to shoulder, each with a book in hand and and cups of tea at our side. Shrouded by our favorite cozy quilt, we sit in quiet bliss, just reading.
Our fifth child needs to be affirmed with words of encouragement. His heart is extremely tender, and needs assurance of my loving words throughout the day. He beams with joy when I find the right words to praise him for his hard work and diligent character.
Our last child requires uninterrupted time with me. Her favorite activity is to take a walk around the neighborhood with just me and our pup, telling me about the story she’s writing. Together we talk about what she will write next. One would think this would be enough to satiate any desire of being with Mommy. But, oh no: this little one strives to sit next to me at the dinner table, help me with the laundry, and stand beside me to work on dinner preparations every evening. This child craves my time, and I have to work hard to meet those needs.
In order to be in a loving relationship with our kids, we must be willing to love them unconditionally at every age and stage. This means reaching down and meeting them right where they are on their journey of life.
And in a much more perfect way, this is what our Heavenly Father did for us through His Son, Jesus Christ.
From the dawn of time, God has desired to have relationship and fellowship with His people. He did this, not because He had some void or need within Himself, but because of His perfect completeness and love. This is why He created the first man and woman in the Garden of Eden. Made in God’s image, they had the privilege of walking with God and talking with him in the garden.
And yet, in a moment of fleshly pride, our first representatives allowed themselves to be deceived into thinking there was something better. Their sin created a chasm between humankind and God, a separation that was worse than sin’s consequence of death.
But God, being rich in mercy, made a way back to that precious communion. He promised a Savior–-a seed from Eve–-that would one day bridge the gap between God and man, making all the wrong things right again (Gen 3:15, ESV).
As history unfolded, the longing for this Savior grew, swollen to bursting like a woman’s belly in pregnancy. Priests, judges, kings, and prophets all came and went; yet no one could fulfill the role of what God’s people truly needed. And the yearning became deeper and greater with every passing century.
Yet, God knew the increasing needs of His people. He knew the fullness of their sin, and the desperate separation that kept man apart from God. He knew exactly what His children needed. And in the fullness of time, God came down to meet them right where they were, with the biggest gift of love that He could give: His perfect Son, Jesus.
Yet, the way in which this gift came was quite unexpected.
One wintry night, in a remote stable, Jesus Christ was born to a humble teenager. This inexperienced mother was far away from home, laboring with a man she barely knew, birthing a baby on a dirty, hay-strewn floor, without a midwife, or even her mother to help. She was a simple young woman, considered to be a nobody, and had nothing to offer her Savior but her womb and the feeble nourishment of her body.
And, impervious to the earth-shattering, historic event of Deity arriving in human form, the world slept in careless distraction.
Doesn’t that sound like our world today?
LOVE had come to the world, meeting our deepest longings and our deepest needs. God had made a way for His people to have a relationship with Him once again. He had bridged the gap and chasm that had been torn apart in the Garden of Eden. He restored communion between God and man. And yet the world yawned and snored.
Why did He do this? Why would he come to such an undeserving people?
Because His purposes have always remained the same: God desires a relationship with His people. He desires a relationship with YOU!
Why would the God of this universe desire a relationship with us?
The answer is because He loves. And he loves only because He loves.
And this love led Jesus to live a life that perfectly followed the law, so we could be covered with His righteousness.
This love led Jesus to take the curse of the law upon Himself, so that we can be forgiven in all the places where we fail.
This love led to His own separation from God the Father, so our total punishment was placed on Him and paid in full.
The book of 1 John says that “this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us…” (4:10). There is nothing within us that deserves this kind of love. Yet God, as our perfect Father, has reached down and met us right where we are, pulling us out of the muck of our sin, and calling us His own children. God’s Word says that we, as His children, have the privilege to come to Him and call Him, “Abba” (Gal 4:6).
The word “Abba” is more than a fancy Aramic word that means “Father”. It is a personal term of relational intimacy–-one that carries a level of unencumbered closeness with our perfect Father and a wholehearted trust in His loving authority. In this one simple yet magnificent word, we can hear and know that the chasm has been filled and the walls of sin have been broken down. God’s love has made a way back to relationship and back to communion with His people.
So, how should we respond to this love?
Will we be like the sleepy town of Bethlehem, carelessly distracted, oblivious to the miracle of Love in human and sacrificial form; oblivious to love in fulfilled covenantal form?
Or will we tremble with awe, like the angels who sang “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty”?
Let us never lose the wonder of this birth.
Let us never forget the gift.
Let us live in continual gratitude for the grace that has been bestowed to us–-a wretched and undeserving people.
It is in this gratitude that we can fully embrace the LOVE of God.