Seeing the heavenly Father’s patience with our weaknesses isn’t always easy.
Years ago a young man barely out of high school asked me how he could know God still loved him despite his repeated failings.
People had told him God is a loving and patient Father who forgives sin, and had given him many verses, but he wasn’t sure God could keep loving him when he failed so often at things with which others seemed to have little difficulty. Even the fact that he couldn’t grasp the verses the way others did was, in his mind, a failure.
I knew he’d grown up with a demanding father who showed little love and acceptance, but he believed his father’s lack of patience with him was justified (hadn’t his dad told him so?). Hearing that God is like a patient father naturally caused him to see God as having his earthly father’s limited patience.
I asked him if he’d ever watched parents teach a child to walk. He said yes, he often had dinner with his older brother and his wife, who had a young child.
I asked, “When the child fell on his diaper the first time he tried to walk, did your brother yell at him?”
“Of course not!”
“When he fell a second time, did they spank him?”
“No! How could you ask that?!?”
“When he continued to fall as he tried to walk, did they give up on him and tell him he’d never make it?”
“No, you don’t understand them at all!”
“Then did they praise his attempts, and embrace him when he fell?”
He nodded, but I could see he didn’t catch the connection.
I told him that parents know a child will tumble many times while trying to walk. They delight in his attempts, even though they’re not initially successful. They care only that he keeps trying, for they know that with their help he’ll succeed. The only reaction that would displease them is if the child after falling decided, “That’s enough. I don’t like falling. I’m going to give up trying and just be satisfied with crawling.”
I said, “God’s patience with our weaknesses is like your brother’s patience with his son’s imperfect walking. God is teaching you to walk. He’s delighted with your attempts, and doesn’t mind that you fall as you learn to walk. In fact, when you fall, picture him scooping you into his arms to assure you he’s pleased with your attempts, just like your brother does with his son.”
He grinned. “That makes sense,” he said. “That really makes sense.”
Some time later, he told me that analogy was a turning point in his spiritual walk. He finally believed God loved him. I think just as important as the analogy was that he finally had someone to model God’s love more correctly.
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. ~Luke 15:20