Thanks for your prayers and well wishes for the arrival of our baby boy! We are so grateful for God’s kindness in this season, and I am so appreciative of the writers who stepped in the last few Saturdays so that I could acclimate to my new role as “Mom”. Thank you, friends!
Parent love is powerful stuff. For better or for worse, the relationships we have with our parents shape us. They teach us things about ourselves and about how the world works and significantly affect how we view God.
I have the distinct privilege of having grown up with literally the best parents. I’m actually writing this post after a week spent with my mom, who graciously came to help me as Cody went back to work after Spencer’s birth. My parents were my first disciplers and they have walked alongside me with perseverance and patience through every imaginable season, and have LOVED me despite myself.
As I think about how my parents have shown me the love of Jesus in real tangible ways, I’m also reminded of “spiritual parents” I’ve been blessed with in different stages of life – men and women who have nurtured me and loved me through a variety of seasons. God has been so kind to provide these mentors, disicplers, and second “parents”: my mom’s best friend Debbie, who has literally prayed for me every day of my life. Marc and Cyndi, who led youth at my church in my middle and early high school years and treated me like their own kid from day one. My aunt Marie, who loved big and reminded me that God is good all the time. Greg and Lisa, who welcomed me into their home with open arms when I found myself far from home in college. Deborah, who taught me how to actually study God’s Word and showed me what it looks like to truly love it with your whole heart. And countless others!
Indeed, I have a rich “parental” heritage – both biological and spiritual. As I reflect on these relationships and what about them shows me the love of Jesus, there are a few themes that emerge: (If you’ve been following Hope is Hard for very long, you know how much I love a list, right?)
Intentionality. For every single person listed above, intentionality has been the name of the game. Dates with my dad to visit the pet store and share a banana split at Dairy Queen. Late night conversations with my mom about anything and everything. Weekends with my aunt and uncle. Lunch with Debbie to catch up on life. These men and women have intentionally set out to understand me, know how I think, and recognize what I need. In doing so they have loved me like Jesus does – on purpose. Psalm 139 tells us that God knows us. He formed us in our mothers’ wombs and He sees us in every circumstance.
Sacrifice. I’m absolutely sure that I only know and recognize a fraction of the sacrifices these people have made on my behalf. The most obvious is the sacrifice of time. I can’t imagine that time spent with middle-school-Eve was at the top of a list of things anyone was really excited to do, and yet, gracious leaders made time for me. They came to my choir and orchestra concerts and made time to be part of my birthday dinner.
Jesus’ sacrifice is the ultimate expression of love and nothing will ever compare to Him laying down His life for my sin, but the smaller sacrifices of my parents and others pointed me to that great sacrifice. They gave me a taste of sacrificial love that allowed me to revel in the fullness of Jesus’ love in a different way than if I hadn’t experienced a tangible example.
Accountability. My mom is probably the best example of this category. She and I have always enjoyed a sweet relationship, and as I’ve come into adulthood she has honestly become one of my very best friends. There’s not a lot (if anything) “off limits” for us to talk about, and I trust her with my deepest thoughts, worries, and wonderings – which is such a gift.
I think I’ll always vividly remember a phone conversation we had a few years ago when she told me point blank that I was making some poor decisions. It was hard to hear at the time, and it took a few days of thinking about what she’d said to come to a conclusion, but she was absolutely right. I was headed toward sin and I needed to stop and repent. And quickly, before more damage was done. Praise God, she wasn’t afraid to call me out!
It reminds me of the woman at the well. Jesus met her and He knew what she needed, but He doesn’t skip over calling out her sin. He held her accountable for her actions and then graciously led her to salvation.
Intentionality. Sacrifice. Accountability. All of these things have been part of my relationship with my parents and with other mentors and disciplers, and all of them have shown me Jesus and prepared me to be loved by Him in similar ways.
What about you, friend?
Have you experienced positive parental love or benefitted from the love of spiritual parents? If so, join me in praising God for the strong love of these men and women that point us to an accurate picture of Him!
Or, have you suffered at the hands of parents who have not loved or nurtured you well? Who have actively hurt you or passively not been present? If so, take heart – God is a good Father and He longs for you to see Him as He truly is. He’s given us His Word that tells us what He’s like, and He has given us His Spirit to help us believe that it’s true. Ask Him for an accurate picture through the Word, ask Him for the redemption of biological parent relationships, and for spiritual parent relationships that He might bring to your life even now.
It’s not a mistake or a coincidence that God presents Himself as our Father. There are depths to be mined in understanding the love of parents – so let’s dig in.