I knew this would happen. There was red sauce everywhere, on their hands, mouths, down the front of their shirts. And they loved it. They both sat there, in their high chairs, grinning and giggling at the mess their little toddler hands had made. I sighed, picked up the damp paper towel, and started cleaning them up. For the third time that day. No matter how many times they made a mess, they still wanted to feed themselves. They would try to wrap their little fists around the spoon handle, their mouths open wide, and would inevitably spill sauce all over themselves.
I couldn’t help but laugh with them, though. I couldn’t help but smile at them as I wiped the mess from their hands and faces. I wanted to be mad, but, come on, they’re adorable twin toddlers. There was no staying mad at them.
As I wiped their adorable little faces, I suddenly felt so at peace. I smiled at the voice in the back of my heart saying, “That’s what you look like to me.”
I do a really good job of beating myself up for every mistake. I am extremely skilled in seeing my every flaw. But, in that moment, I finally felt like I could see what my Father sees. Not a disappointment. Not a list of flaws. Just a little girl insisting on doing things herself instead of just listening to her Father. I started to realize that no matter how many times I messed up, God would always be happy to wipe up the mess, not because I had earned the privilege, but just because I’m His little girl, His beloved child.
Still, I need reminding of these things a lot. The word “father” probably means something different to each person reading this. But no matter what kind of good, bad, complicated relationship we have with our earthly fathers, each and every one of us still has the best Father in heaven, and here’s why.
In His eyes, we are always enough.
Sometimes we can get so caught up in self-criticism or self-improvement that we forget that God isn’t tallying up our successes and our failures. He isn’t watching our lives toss us around, laughing as we try to hold on.
No, He’s our Father. Our Dad. He wants to kiss our scraped knees and celebrate our every win.
There’s another little girl I babysit who’s four-years-old and loves to draw. More specifically, she loves to give drawings to her parents. One afternoon, when her dad got home, she skipped over to proudly present her gift: a sheet of black paper with red and purple scribbles all over it. “Wow! It’s beautiful!” he exclaimed. And the best part? He wasn’t pretending; he didn’t need to. The offering wasn’t beautiful because of skill, but just because it was from his child.
I wish that everyone could have the same experience, but even the most dedicated fathers are going to mess up sometimes. All of us need a reliable source of love—something more than an imperfect human being who will both succeed and fail can give us. Our Father in heaven is that love. Our efforts to please Him are not precious because of how good or perfect they are; they are precious because we are precious to Him. Always.
He will do anything to get us to heaven.
Because we are His precious children, beautiful and worthy just as we are, He will go to extraordinary lengths to bring us home to Him. A priest once put it this way to me: “Aside from hindering your free will, your Father will do anything to get you to heaven.”
We do not have an absent Father. We don’t have a Father who only has time for us some of the time. We don’t have a Father who is too tired or too busy to spend time with us. We don’t have a Father who sits by and does nothing while we flounder and lose our way.
We have a Father who wants to spend today, tomorrow, and eternity with us. We have a Father who loves us enough to teach us hard lessons, who isn’t willing just to make our lives easy because He wants them to be meaningful. He wants to be with you now and forever, and He will do anything to make that happen.
He is always a Father first.
I should really know better by now. I should know better than to think that God is judge before He is my father. But I do. Maybe it’s because I so desperately want to make Him proud or because it’s hard to imagine that the Almighty would want to be so gentle with me, but I find it difficult to remember that God doesn’t want something out of me nearly as much as He wants me. I forget the creed I profess every Sunday: “I believe in God, the Father almighty.”
That’s right. Even before He wants us to know that He is almighty, He wants us to know that He is Father.
He wants a relationship with us. He wants our hearts. It’s so simple, so pure, so unconditional that it can be really hard to wrap your head around, especially because in our world, fathers aren’t just fathers. They are brothers, friends, husbands, stepfathers, boyfriends, businessmen, and much more. They have many roles to play and they don’t always keep their role as father a priority.
But God does. He wants nothing more than to be your perfect Father. He wants nothing more than to heal our every wound, because where humans leave emptiness God always brings fullness.
I often forget that God being our Father doesn’t just mean that He’s our Creator or that He’s in charge. It means that we are precious to Him, that we are made for His kingdom, that we’re each a reflection of Him. It means that He loved us into existence and that He continues to even now.
“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God. Yet so we are. […] Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:1-2)