Thursday, August 19, 2010

Avery the Teacher...

So Avery, my daughter, seems to be developing and hitting milestones on a daily basis. Her latest, which happened while in PA, was rolling over. I haven’t actually witnessed it in person. All I know is that she falls to sleep on her stomach, and when we get her in the morning, she is on her back. The funniest thing is she has the biggest smile, as if to say, “Look, I did it again!” She is so proud of herself. Whenever something like this happens, I want to go around and tell people how smart and advanced my daughter is, whether I have met you before or not! But I know parents who do that, and it can get old. They brag about the simplest things, which do not seem that phenomenal. So I will show some restraint. Instead, I’ll just let you come to the incredibly obvious conclusion of how amazing my daughter is through reading this story. Did I mention she can practically stand already?! (Stop it, Eric….)

Fatherhood has obviously brought me a lot of joy, but it has also taught me a lot. Over the past few years, I have been on a journey to understand my view of God. I have slowly learned my skewed images of God, how they influence my interactions with God, and some of the sources of these images. I am now trying to live out of the truth of who God is, instead of my distorted concepts, but this is definitely not an easy road. One of core beliefs that I have tried to shake is that God does not delight in me. He loves me because it’s His job, but delight in me? Only occasionally. How could he with the way I live on certain days?

So here is how God has been using Avery in this process. My love for Avery is as close to unconditional love as I can imagine on earth. Although I love my wife, family, and friends dearly, there are all elements of choice that do not exist the same way in my love for Avery. At the most simple things, I cannot help but love her without a single thought in my mind. I do not analyze and make a decision; I just love. As an example, when I can get Avery to smile enough that her binkie falls out of her mouth, my day is complete. It is the best prize of the day. Also, at the end of each night, I go into her room to say goodnight. Usually it’s just an excuse to look at her and smile. I love just seeing the unique sleeping position she has chosen that night. She could have been fussy all day, and it would not change that moment before I go to bed.

Now my theology claims that God looks down upon me in the same way. Regardless of what I have done that day, when I’m sleeping, He can’t help but smile at His beloved son. That was incredibly hard for me to type, because it is even harder to believe. God looks down upon me the same way I look at Avery before I go to sleep?! Sort of, yet His love is stronger. I know, its ridiculous. God loves me intimately and personally. And I bring Him joy by being who I am!

Now I realize that God may not always be pleased with my decisions, and I grieve Him when I choose contrary to what He has intended for me. When I disobey Him, He grieves. But I have realized that at the core of that grief is the loss of fulfillment that He desires for me. He grieves because He wants more for me. I did not trust Him, and it grieves Him that I, along with others, must suffer the consequences. Although this has not come out clearly in my relationship with Avery, it will just be a matter of time. I want what is best for her, and I’m sure there will be times that she chooses something contrary to that. And I will grieve when I know from experience that she will face some tough consequences. But as she falls down due to her decisions, I will be there to pick her up. And God is there for me as well. Because His love has more to do with Him than it has to do with me.

Although it still doesn’t sink in at times, my love for Avery has given me something tangible to cling to. And hopefully it becomes more of an experiential thing, and I start to live out of the confidence of that love. My heart has always lagged behind my mind in understanding this, but I’m hoping Avery will help my heart to begin to believe.

At the end of each day, God smiles upon me because I bear His image. And maybe He is so proud of my smallest development that He wants to tell all the angels. And maybe He also finds joy in my unique sleeping position. Who knows….