Becoming a parent changed my understanding of love, patience and re-calibrated my understanding of God's love for me. If you're a parent, I imagine you can relate to me in those thoughts and then far beyond. Additionally, I felt more secure in my relationship with God once I had my own son—becoming sensitive to the Father's pain and love for me expressed in His giving of the paschal lamb—Jesus Christ, His son.
Jesus looked to the Father throughout his life. The Father also validated Jesus, especially at significant moments. I think of Jesus' baptism, when he told John “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” After John baptized him, we are told that, "heaven was opened" and that the spirit of God descended like a dove on him. The validation rang from heaven when the Father said "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." I understand validation as the recognition by someone else that you are important and/or valuable to them.
My son looks to me for validation. When Aaron does something important (or perceived by him as important), such as hanging onto his Zany Zoo with one hand, he looks at me with a giant smile on his face because he wants me to see him doing something amazing. He wants me to be proud of him. Often, I'll catch him looking at me, as if he is the one checking to see if I'm looking at him. This was a tenderhearted moment for me because I realized in that instant how important I truly was (and am) in my son's life. At 11 months old, he desires to be validated! I believe Jesus was validated by the Father at his baptism, how that validation must have meant to him.
Can you recall a time in your life when your mom or dad spoke something to you so important, that you felt validated by them? How did that feel? My wife Katie and I validate each other the most when we speak our deepest emotions to each other. Is this not also what the Father has already done for us and desires from us? (He knows our heart, He is just waiting for us to willingly share it with him.)
Not long after I had similar moments with my son (catching him watching me…because he was waiting for me to look at him), I became convicted by the following questions:
Do I look to God for validation, for Him to be proud of me because I'm doing something "amazing"? (The word "amazing" in this context is very broad—it could be as simple as me honoring a commitment to Him in fasting or not getting frustrated in Montgomery traffic for a full week.)
Do I look to Him, to see if I can catch him looking at me? We are assured that God's eyes are always on us as Psalm 34:15 states: "The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry." But...do I look to Him?
If I feel distant from the Father, do I seek after Him? Often when I leave the room, Aaron immediately wants to get up and follow me wherever I am going. It is a heartwarming sight to see my son wobbling into the room with a joyful smile on his face. He loves me so much that he wants to follow me, and not be apart from my company. Or, he may just like being held. James 4:8 tells about a great truth regarding distance and proximity with God. "Come near to God and he will come near to you..." Our relationship with the Father is a two-way street in terms of how close we can get. The Father desires to see how close we want to be to Him and apparently He responds in a similar fashion. It is worth noting that the Father will never leave or forsake us, but how close He comes to us bears a direct relationship on how close we come to him.
Perhaps Jesus really meant what he said in Matthew 18:3 about the necessity of us becoming like children or we will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
So, let me turn the questions to you. How "childlike" are you in your relationship with the Father? I'm not speaking of a level of maturity here, but rather that bond and fascination that children seem to have with their parents. When I was a child, I don't recall worrying about much of anything. The items that were important to me were "Where is mom? Okay. Where is Dad? Okay." I suppose my need for security was in direct relationship to how close I was (proximity) to my parents and that proximity somehow equated with love. I remember being lost in the grocery store one time, and feeling the panic of not knowing where my mom was or if she would leave me there. I reasoned I would have a lot of cereal to eat if I got hungry, though. Needless to say I was found, but somewhat disappointed that my quest for a cereal buffet would have to wait. Alas, I digress...
My hope and desire is that we would not be so "grown up" that we lose that "childlike" quality. Adults are (for the most part) concerned with status and greatness, essentially proximity in relation to one another. I believe this was the question at hand when Jesus' disciples came to him and asked, "Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" (Matthew 18:1). They were concerned with how they would be "ranked" in Heaven, apparently a very "grown up" way of thinking. Children, while competitive in their own right, are more concerned about proximity to their parents. Christ specifically states that greatness (in the Kingdom of Heaven) results from becoming as humble as a child. I personally haven't met a 3 year old that told me they want to be great, but I've met many adults who think this way, myself included (ouch!).
So, where are you in relation to others? If you know the answer, perhaps you've been focusing too much on the horizontal. The real question is how close are you to the Father? I'm confident you know the answer and if you're not as close as you want to be, take a step in His direction and be assured He will do the same towards you.
Go out and have a blessed week, acting like children! (It's a good thing...really!)