We’re an expressive family, and we love finding creative ways to demonstrate our love to our four boys who range in age from toddler to teenager. Sometimes it’s an encouraging note on the kitchen counter that greets them in the morning, or a love note in their lunch bag, or a random text in the middle of the day. Sometimes it’s an unexpected tickle attack that demonstrates “I enjoy you.” And sometimes it’s a gentle whisper in the ear, at the end of a hard day when our humanity has been on full display, that sounds like “I love who you are and I love who you’re becoming.”
I most enjoy saying this to my boys when the day’s been long and the struggle’s been real, as these seem to be the very days that provide the most fertile soil to plant seeds of God’s love.
Well, when we say to our two older boys, “I love you,” they respond as you’d expect. They smile and sweetly say, “I love you too.” But when we tell Owen, our third son, that we love him, he’s always had a unique response. He will very tenderly smile and say, “I know.” Then he will respond “I love you, too.”
When Owen says those two simple words — “I know” — he blesses me with his confidence in my love. And it makes me think that perhaps we bless Jesus with our confidence in His love for us. As David writes in Psalm 147:11,
The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.
But if you’re anything like me, you’ve assumed that the Lord only delights in those who rarely sin and rebel. And you’ve feared that you’ve lost the Lord’s love and delight when your heart has wandered and your faithfulness has wavered. And then, with a guilty conscience, you’ve gotten busy trying to earn His love back by working harder to pursue holiness.
But in this verse, David assures us that the Lord delights in those who fear him. Of course, the expression “those who fear him” doesn’t mean “fear” as we would typically assume. God does not delight in us running and hiding, worrying that He is out to get us and punish us for our wrongdoing.
David is writing about holy fear — a fear that makes us stand in awe and wonder of God. A fear that makes us want to run toward Him, not away from Him, knowing that His arms are spread wide in welcome as we repent of our sin and receive His love. In other words, God delights in us anchoring our hope in Christ’s work to secure His unfailing love for us.
Just as I love to hear my son say, “I know” when I tell him I love him, the Lord longs to hear us, in faith, respond, “I know.”
And not just when we are obeying Him, trusting Him, and pulling this parenting thing off pretty well. But also when we are messing up again, losing our patience again, being unthankful again, or doing that “thing” we determined never to do again. On the days when we don’t feel the least bit lovely or lovable, He wants us to know we remain His beloved.
My friend, the price was paid and the point was made. You. Are. Free!
You and I are God’s daughters, and we are fiercely loved. And we who know we are loved are empowered to love our children —fulfilling the new commandment of Christ:
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
(John 13:34–35; see also 1 John 3:23)
Our ability to love our kids with the love of Christ — and fulfill this new commandment in our parenting — will be profoundly influenced by our willingness to rest in God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. The grace we so generously receive from God will be the grace that we so generously give to our kids.
And as we discover how to live in the very real freedom for which Christ has set us free, we will be empowered to raise children who do the same!
Jeannie Cunnion is a Jesus lover and a grace clinger. She is the author of Mom Set Free and Parenting the Wholehearted Child, as well as a frequent speaker at women’s conferences and parenting events around the country. Jeannie’s passion is encouraging women to live in the very real freedom for which Christ has set us free — a message her own heart needs to be reminded of daily. She holds a master’s degree in social work, and her writing has been featured on outlets such as the TODAY show, Fox News, The 700 Club, and Focus on the Family. Jeannie and her husband, Mike, have four boys who range in age from toddler to teenager. You can learn more and connect with her at JeannieCunnion.com.