I have always heard people say that they never really understood God's unconditional love until they became a parent. I agree with that, but I say that I really began to understand the unconditional love of God after I had children.
My seven year old daughter demonstrates God's love and mercy to me.
Psalm 103: 10 He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
I Samuel 16:7 Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
My daughter doesn't hold my sin against me. I can have a horrible Mommy day, complete with short temper, angry words, selfish acts, and lack of attention (and with reactions like that, she's probably glad that I am not paying attention). When the weight of my sin and careless or hurtful behavior hits home with me, usually after some type of blowup, I hug her and apologize. I often say, "I'm sorry that I have been a mean Mommy today." Amanda has replied the same way for the last several years: "You aren't a mean Mommy. You're the best Mom in the world!" She really believes that it's true. I am thankful that just like my God, she does know my true heart, in spite of my actions which sometimes speak to the contrary. I love her and even treasure her. Amanda's example has prompted me to try to give her a clean slate each day, judging her only on that day's behavior, not expecting the worst based on past mistakes. She is still way ahead of me in applying this principle.
Jeremiah 31:3 I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with everlasting kindness.
She loves me no matter how I treat her, just as God loves me and seeks after my love. If I ignore Him, He is always waiting. If I choose selfish interests over time with Him in prayer, Bible study, and acts of service, He waits, and accepts me back into fellowship anytime I am ready to return. In the same way, my daughter longs for my time and attention. When I say no to her invitation to play video games, or a board game, or watch her ride her bike, she will ask again later that day or the next time she engages in that activity. I am never off her radar screen. I am the caretaker and am supposed to be the one who is always thinking of her needs and wants, but she is the one who is always thinking of me and waiting for my attention, whether it comes often or seldom. She won't give up on me, just as the Lord patiently awaits my heart to turn fully to Him.
My two year old son shows me what it is like to live life to the full.
Kyle shrieks with joy, giggles with glee or howls in disappointment or anger. Every emotion is felt, and expressed, to the full. I am reminded that I should approach my life in Christ that way. My responses to my Lord should be honest and without restraint, just as David's were throughout the book of Psalms. Just as Kyle would not even know how to put on a false front, I too should seek that transparency before my Lord.
Genesis 1: 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
When Kyle sees an interesting bug, he doesn't just look at it. He squeals with delight, and even shares his joy, "Mommy! Look! Ant!" Then he gets down on his tummy, level with the ant, and watches. He delights in rain, and earthworms, and even later creations of the mechanical variety such as trains and planes.
My children are truly a gift from the Lord, and I am thankful that He has entrusted me to raise them. Amanda has already chosen to have a personal relationship with Jesus, so while I fail in many areas, I am confident that I have taught her the most important lesson of all. I strive to keep growing in my faith and cultivating a heart like the Lord's, so that I will be a suitable model and example for them, since they are definitely watching me. But I am watching, too. I seek to emulate them, showing the selfless and unbounded love that they show me.
Mark 10: 15-16 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.