One Small Step
It was a cold, snowy Christmas Eve. There we were -- five fully grown, functional, mature adults -- carrying on like half-crazed football fans, yelling, clapping, and cheering at a small object in the center of the room.
Sara, a barely-year-old charmer had chosen that Christmas Eve to take her first steps. Her parents, understandably, were leading the frenzied cheering, but the rest of us joined in.
The same script played itself out over and over again: Sara, smiling wildly, would secure our attention, then take a few faltering steps -- only to fall on the well-diapered section of her anatomy. She carried on undaunted, however, mainly because of her daddy's reaction.
Immediately after each of her landings, he would rush over to her, set her on her feet again, dust her off, and then slowly back away. "That's okay! Come on, Baby! Come to Daddy!" he would call, arms wide open, his entire body inclined in her direction.
Freshly encouraged, she would start out again with confident, albeit wobbly steps. It didn't seem to matter to either of them that they had to repeat this procedure over and over again. She just continued to move toward her father's outstretchd arms; she continued to move toward her father's outstretched arms; he continued to invite her to move toward him. With his love and encouragement enfolding her, she found the courage to walk.
Amidst the cheering for Sara, I began to focus my attention more on her father. The gentle delight on his face was a study in itself. Not once did he yell at her for falling. Not once did he roughly yank her to her feet. Not once did he chide her for not learning faster. He was simply thrilled that she was trying. Thrilled that she was moving in his direction. Thrilled that she was responding to his voice and presence.
Slowly the thought formed itself in my mind: "This earthly father's love is just a reflection of the Heavenly Father's. If Sara's father could love her like this, how much more..." My cheering abated somewhat. It became increasingly difficult to cheer over the lump that was forming in my throat. The thought persisted:"If an eartly father could love like that..." Though the subsequent years I''ve had opportunity to reflect much on that tender scene.
She was sitting in my office recently. I asked the question that I'd asked many others. "If the Lord Jesus were to walk into this room right now and take your face in His hands in order to lift your eyes to His, what do you suppose you would see in those eyes?"
Her response was not at all surprising. Immediately the tears came. "Disgust. That's what I'd see -- disgust." She hung her head and cried.
The room grew very quiet. Finally, I asked, "Why? Why do you suppose that that is what you'd see?"
"Because I'm a miserable failure, that's why. I'm disgusted. Why shouldn't He be?"
Her answer had a ring of familiarity to it, for it was similar to other answers I'd heard: "I'd see disappointment." I'd see Someone who wishes I would do better. I wouldn't want to look into those eyes. I'd be afraid of what I'd see. I'd see disapproval for what I've become."
Why is it that many of us can identify with those reactions? Why is it that so many of us have rarely experienced any sense of relating to a Heavenly Father who is delighted over us? A Father who is thrilled whenever we take even the tiniest step toward Him? A Father who does not chide us when we fall, but One who is right there beside us offering His presence, His encouragement, and His gifts of forgiveness, restoration and help?
If we were honest, many of us would have to admit that we serve a tyrannical God of impossible standards who withdraws in displeasure -- or who, at the very least, exacts payment from us -- when we fail
Deep in our souls we respond like the little girl I met at camp many years ago. She had stayed after campfire to talk. After sobbing through a detailed list of her failures, she choked out, "And I try so hard to be good so that God will like me." I held her in my arms while I explained God's unconditional, undeserved love for us. That night she entered into peace as she accepted the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.
I try to be so good so that God will like me.
Many of us will smile at that statement. But with tenderness. And perhaps with a knowing pain.
Oh, we'd be quick to expound a Gospel and a God of grace. But in our daily experience? We cannot enjoy the Lord or His grace because we are trying so hard to be good so that He will like us. Trying so hard to deserve His goodness and His Father-love. And all the while He stands there, His arms outstretched, offering us the love we're working so desperately to earn "Come on. Come to your Father. Now. Not later. Not when you're good enough. Now."
Thank you, little Sara, and little Sara's daddy for showing me a picture of my Abba Father. Dear Father, indeed.
Written by Connie Kondos
from Servant Magazine May/ June 1992
used with permission