It is normal to think of our children. We worry about them. We celebrate and sometimes share their successes. And we suffer and endure, perhaps even to a greater degree, their challenges and failures. In raising four kids, even though they are all adults now, it is still true. One is married and our son-in-law joins this burden and joy.
As I was driving the other day however, it struck me that in many respects, this love I have for my children, the worry over their challenges and the desires I have to see them happy, is not so much different than that of God the Father.
If you think about God in historical terms, there are many instances in the Old Testament that illustrate this. I try to imagine how he felt when I recall the story told in childhood Sunday School classes about Moses and the picture we were shown when the teacher told about Moses coming down from the mountain and breaking the tablets with the Ten Commandments on them. I can imagine God thinking about how disappointed he was that Moses behaved in this way.
I imagine he told Moses, here are my laws. You are going to go down there and it isn’t going to be easy. People don’t like change. Kids don’t always listen to parents. They all have minds of their own; that is how I created them. But Moses, you have to be the strong one. You have to be mature and lead by example. If you do that, it will be okay.
Moses had his instructions. Let’s imagine that on that mountain, with God’s careful and loving instruction, Moses developed his resolve to present God’s Laws to his people. So, down the mountain he goes. And if memory from that story serves me, he found his “children” had changed the culture of the community. There was a gold calf. There were other new forms of behavior. It seems that a lot changed in those 40 days and nights up on the mountain with God.
Moses must have been pretty mad if he really threw the tablets and broke them, like the childhood story goes. I am guessing that his feelings have matched ones I have had when my children did not listen and follow instruction.
I find it funny as I think about this writing, how, as parents, our goal and our responsibility is to raise kids to be mature adults that can think independently and survive in the world and we get upset when they don’t follow our instructions. The dichotomy of this whether it is our children or our relationship with God and our faith is fascinating and frustrating at the same time.
Often, our youngest son who is 27 years old calls for advice. We talk about the issue and explore options together. We talk about possible outcomes. We discuss all the ways to handle his situation and agree on a plan. It then comes time to “send him back down the mountain.” While our discussion does not parallel the Ten Commandments, it is he who has to have the determination to follow the plan.
When I think about Moses and I think about my conversations with our son, and I think about the role of God and my role in these two situations, it becomes very clear. You see, God in this context, is a father [parent] and I am the child. It is, for me, like the relationship as a parent I have with my children?
When I apply this to my own life I am taken back to being a child. Not a kid, but a child of God. There are expectations. There is instruction given through the scripture. There are examples all around me, both good and bad, of how to live a life that would please our Father in heaven.
And so, even though I believe that God the Father worries and celebrates about his children just as I do as a parent of my children, I cannot forget my role as a child, that he gives me direction and advice and that he gave me freewill. And, in the end, it is up to me.