I have four small children. Three of the four are preschoolers, and one is a baby who is learning to eat peas. He hates peas. For some reason, he finds mastication of peas to be infinitely more difficult that his consumption of bananas and strawberries. He probably learned this from his older siblings… They have ravenous appetites for fruit snacks, ice cream, and lollipops. But when I put my delicately seasoned, grilled salmon and roasted Brussel sprouts in front of them, they’re suddenly not hungry. Not at all. Not even a little bit. Unless I were to pull out the ice cream…
But I want to be a good mama. So, I make healthy snacks their only options. I push the hummus like it’s my job. I extoll the glories of green veggies, and I provide a wide variety of lean proteins. And cheese. Because… well… cheese. You gotta have cheese. I buy organic animal crackers, I slice carrot sticks, I pour the whole milk.
My kids still like ice cream the best.
My view of God’s love is a lot like my kids’ view of ice cream. Shouldn’t God’s love always feel sweet? Refreshing? Readily available? And always preferable to peas?
And God, as my heavenly Father, likes to give me ice cream. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17
But assuming that God only doles out “ice cream” love is foolish. Just as asking me, a mama, to feed my kids on nothing but creamy sweetness would be ridiculous. It’s delicious, sure. But it’s not good for their bodies. In the same way an ice cream variety of love, all by itself, would not be good for my soul. (Here the analogy breaks down a little, so let’s walk away from it, shall we? God has given so many delicious things, that my soul resembles a fat, satiated, ice-cream filled toddler.)
God’s love is healthier than days full of ice cream. He also knows my need for healthy boundaries, limitations, and delayed gratification. He knows I sometimes need discipline. He knows I need the spiritual “vegetables” if you will… “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Hebrews 12:6
Reproof, discipline, and not giving me what I think is best, is good parenting. When we limit love to interactions that make us “feel good,” we limit its scope and power. God, as our father, would not be a good father if He only provided what I want rather than what I need. “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you.” Deuteronomy 8:5
Just as God loves us, so we are to love one another. Jesus demonstrated this by the way he loved us. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” John 15:9
God’s love for his Son sent Christ to the cross. God’s love sent His Son to live a life of pain and rejection. God’s love for Christ relegated Him to lonely wildernesses and friends who misunderstood him. And yet, who would argue that God didn’t love His Son?
Sometimes loving means sharing hard truths. Sometimes loving doesn’t feel warm and fuzzy. Sometimes loving isn’t like ice cream.
But we can remember God’s promise: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
Real love brings about peace and righteousness.
So we thank the Father God who gives us veggie-like love, and we mimic Him when we humbly offer love to others!