“Son, I’m so glad you graduated today,” exclaimed my father as he wiped tears of joy away from his eyes and with anaconda-like strength, bear-hugged me. He hesitated and sighed deeply. I could tell he was working hard to fight back more tears.
I remember thinking, What deep words of knowledge and fatherly wisdom will he share with me on this special day?
Dad put his hands on both of my shoulders and made sure that he had my full attention. He took another deep breath and said those profound words that will stick with me until the day I die: “Now get out there and find a job!”
Yep…that’s what he told me as I was graduating . . . from the eighth grade. I’m not kidding! (But he was, of course—kind of.)
Growing up, I was a real knucklehead. I was so hardheaded that Dad used to joke that my head was made of granite. Consequently, I got a lot of spankings as a kid. Why did I get spanked so much? And why did I have such a hard time with school, relationships, learning, and life in general? Because I was very foolish!
However, not once did Dad ever tell me that he wasn’t proud of me. In fact, he showered me—and my two brothers—with positive words of love and encouragement—and also disciplined me when I needed it. Every time I turned around, he was telling me that he loved me. Like a magnet, emotionally, he was drawing me closer and closer to him with his love.
A New Generation
As the father of two of my own (very different) children—one of them really strong-willed—I definitely understand and take the same approach with my children that my father did with me. I make sure to let them know that the love I have for them isn’t based on whether they do something right or not or whether they’re obedient or not. In fact, my love for them isn’t based on anything they do…at all—how they act, how they look, or even how much they love me! My love for them is based on one thing: the fact that they’re my children. You see, there’s nothing they can do to make me stop loving them! Every night after I pray with them and tuck them in, I say to them the simple, yet powerful words: “There’s nothing you can do . . .” And they finish the familiar statement: “. . . to make me stop loving you!”
This is important, life-changing stuff that I’m doing, because I want my children to have good, strong self-esteem and to know that even when I don’t: like, approve of, or agree with something they’re doing—I always love them. This is especially important for them to know when I’m disciplining them. There’s no more powerful time than after some painful, difficult, and serious discipline for me to remind them that my love for them isn’t dependent…on them.
The Godly Template
In the Bible God did the same thing. He reminded His children, the Israelites, that He loved them supremely—even in the midst of having to discipline them. As He allowed them to be taken into captivity by Babylon for some much-needed discipline—after milder forms of discipline had failed—God reminded them that there was nothing they could do to make Him stop loving them.
In Jeremiah 31:3 God said: “I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!” (Message). In another version of the same text this is what God said: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (New International Version).
Remember, the Israelites were complete knuckleheads. They messed up a lot! But God never gave up on them, did He? In fact, all through the Bible God continually reminded His people that He loved them and that He would continue to love them:
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him” (Message, John 3:16-18).
When You Mess Up
So when you mess up big-time and you think you’ve blown it so badly (that’s pretty much daily for most of us) that nothing can be repaired, remember that God loves you and will never stop loving you. And if He loves you and me enough to keep giving us chances, and loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus: to die for us; give us both the motivation and the power to be more like Him; then how could we ever choose not to love Him back? How could we ever choose to turn away from Him? The Apostle Paul put it most beautifully when he wrote: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15).
So today, choose to live for Him because He chose to die for you; He chose to tell you, through His perfect life, sinless death, and glorious resurrection: “there’s nothing you can do, to make Me stop loving you.”