Several years ago, when my son, Joshua, was about 4 or 5, I took him to a social event where there were buffet lines, salad bars, and a large number of adults milling about. At one point, he became separated from me by a small group of people. He was never out of my sight, but from his perspective, I had disappeared. His panic was palpable. Eyes wide, he called my name with fear in his voice and started to run, looking desperately for me. My heart broke. I quickly stepped forward and scooped him up, assuring him that I was there. His panic melted into relief in my arms.
And that’s when I was struck by an epiphany: How must God’s heart break when we are scared or when we are lost—when we cry out in fear, even though He has never left us. I realized that being a father had allowed me, in a small way, to see things as God sees them.
My instinct to scoop up Joshua into my arms, to shelter and reassure him, is reflected in Jesus’ words as he looked out over the Holy City: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Luke 13:34 NIV). The people of Jerusalem were rebellious and stiff-necked, yet God still loved them and desired to protect them. My love for Joshua and my daughter, Hannah, forgives faults and sees past flaws. (And I’m incredibly blessed that both, now adults, really were not much trouble at all.) They are my children no matter what, loved no matter what. Even today, I am ready to comfort and protect them from the world’s troubles.
I delight in giving gifts to my children. I don’t even need a special occasion. I love to see the surprise on their faces, the anticipation as they open the present. I do it for no reason other than they are my children. Again, reflecting on this allows me, in a small way, to understand how God delights in giving to us. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:9-11 NIV).
I love Joshua and Hannah with a fierce love that will sacrifice anything for their good. There is no beginning to it and no end. It is difficult to find words to describe it, but fortunately the apostle Paul said it well in describing God’s fierce, unquenchable love: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).