A few days ago, after an all-day business meeting in Seattle–two hours from home– Dan and I dropped over to see our two sons and daughters-in-law for a little bit before heading over the mountain and back home again. Sure enough, like slowly sipping the very best cup of something incredibly refreshing after a tiring day, I so gratefully savored bear-hugs from the covey of giggling, squealing, happy little granddaughters that welcomed us at the door. “Nama, did you bring us anything?”– and as I handed out sparkly little star wands and St. Patrick’s Day pencils, again, for the millionth time, I felt amazed that in this life we could be so intensely blessed.
Sitting around their dining room table that evening with our two sons, two daughters-in-law, and their combined number of little ladies– eating pizza, laughing and talking, getting calendars caught up with dates for upcoming ballet recitals and Grandparents Day events, and together solving the nation’s political, health, and economic problems while little girls of all sizes moved from lap to lap– all the stresses and weights of the world vanished, for a little while at least.
The evening scooted by until we made the rounds of hugs and kisses, then more hugs and kisses amid the silly, giggly one-upmanship between the little girls and me of, “I love you with all my peanut butter and jelly sandwich!”
“I love YOU with all my… unicorn!”
“I love YOU with all my crayons!”
“I love YOU with all my…”
I headed out to the car with Dan, still calling over my shoulder, “I love you with all my laptop!” and hearing the echo, “I love you with all my good-bye [giggle, giggle]…”
Hurrying our way through the Seattle lights and traffic and on into the quietly winding highway that threads its way up and over the majestic mountains that separate us from this part of our family, I settled back in my seat wondering how long I could hold on to such contentment and peace before the pressures of life would start demanding my attention and dominating my emotions again. There’s just nothing in the world like the joy of family….
Just as Jesus used details of life to always point us to His Kingdom, life still continues to provide us with amazing pictures of God and His Kingdom, and undeniably, times with my family are among the very greatest pictures–and lessons– of His Kingdom. Early the next morning, I found an article by Joni Eareckson Tada that spoke of the “joy” that God the Father exudes and shares with us, His children– even as the world, sin, misery, trials, adversities, death, and darkness continue all around us. God the Father’s great and eternal joy is centered and fixed upon the amazing, sacrificial obedience of His Beloved Son. The intense, everlasting joy of God our Father is always and forever centered on the work of redemption and salvation that Jesus, His Son, provided.
Joni writes, “…in Matthew 3:17, God says, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ You see, the Father’s happy because of Jesus… In Jesus, the Father sees the fountain of all the goodness that ever was. Jesus is joy spilling over onto earth. The Savior is ‘joy-incarnate’ splashing over heaven’s walls… and He is driven to share that joy with us…John 15:11, ‘so that My joy may be in you.’”
“Family” is a reflection of the love that God the Father has for His Son. It opens the door– at least a little bit– for us to understand this. Knowing the rich love, contentment, and joy I have for my own family, it completely amazes me to think of the infinite capacity– the bottomless depths– of love that God the Father knows, because of Jesus!
Clearly, the love I have for my own children is rooted in the same. Certainly, my mother-heart would undoubtedly still love my children deeply just because they’re my children– after all, giving them life itself came with suffering and sacrifice from the start! Yet finding myself on this side of motherhood, walking together with our adult children, each of them also in obedience to the One Who gave His life for us all– and watching as they themselves faithfully raise their own children in obedience and faith in Christ Jesus– is joy unspeakable that has exponentially multiplied the depths of such love into something so infinitely greater, because it derives its source, the “overflow,” from the very heart of God the Father Himself. And by it, this Love is eternal. There’s “love,” and then there’s “Love.” There’s “joy,” and then there’s “Joy.”
Even so, the incomprehensible Love and Joy that can only come from God doesn’t necessarily mean that difficult life circumstances vanish. Actually, nothing on earth has changed much– it may even get more intense! We still have to deal with problems at work, with financial pressures, with sicknesses and political upheaval and annoying people and sin paraded in front of us and failures and economic stresses and…and…and… And yet in it, there is a peace that’s far beyond comprehending, and a love that’s so deeply, deeply rooted in Christ. It rises so, so far above it all. If I should momentarily forget this, it’s through my family that I remember to get my eyes back where they need to be. My family is not the focus. My family is the signpost, a great big arrow pointing me again to Christ and His Kingdom– and the Joy that the Father finds in His beloved Son.
Catching up with my daughter by phone after we returned home, I asked about a friend of hers who is having difficulties in her pregnancy.
“Did I tell you I saw her yesterday?” Sarah asked me.
“No. Where is she?”
“In the hospital. They said she has to stay flat on her back until the baby is born. They’re hoping they can hold off at least another week, till the baby is strong enough for an early birth. When I was in the hospital once, someone brought me [a certain Artisan] bread and I loved it– so I brought her a loaf, and the boys and I went to the hospital to see her for awhile.”
As she spoke, my heart melted at the overflowing Love of the Father reflected by my daughter in this simple, heartfelt act of kindness, reaching out to someone who was discouraged. And I didn’t think I could possibly love her– or God–more than I loved at that moment.
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