By Amy Rager
Isn’t it intriguing- the ways God chooses to make himself and his love known to us?
-With names like ‘I AM.’
-Through passing by and allowing an onlooker—who must hide in the cleft of a rock—to see his back.
-By incarnating into the form of a counter-cultural story-teller with parables even his closest companions couldn’t comprehend.
There’s no doubt about it. Mystery and imagery are integral parts of God’s plan for revealing His love to the world. This can be incredibly frustrating for those of us who would prefer a bulleted guide instead of a life-long process of seeking Him in His enigmatic Word. Yet, in spite of our logical objections, discovering the nature of God’s love and the content of His character can be a fulfilling experience of unveiling layer after layer of God’s beauty tucked into this often ugly world. God’s hidden himself everywhere. Seeking and finding can be one of our highest pleasures.
The Bible offers a very practical place to start. References to the family unit are everywhere. God is called our ‘Father.’ Jesus is the ‘Son of God.’ We are ‘fellow heirs’ with Christ. Jesus called His followers ‘brothers and sisters.’ When the Biblical authors sought to conjure up love in our minds they most often used familial references. So, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to believe that much could be uncovered about the love of God by studying and participating in family.
Now, no family is perfect. Often we end up learning just as much about God by the ache in our hearts when family fails us. The hurt we feel shows us that whatever it is we have experienced is not the intended design of family and does not represent the way God loves us. Even the broken aspects of family can point us to our Father.
With that being said, here are a few things we can know about God and His love for us by studying the way he ordered families:
1. As families are intimate, so God loves us intimately. Something about sharing a living space with someone creates an environment for true relationship. Morning breath, stomach viruses, emotional ups and downs, they’re all experienced together. Our parents, spouses, siblings, etc. know our flaws, witness our darkest habits, see our most embarrassing moments and still love us. Likewise, God wants that kind of intimacy with us. Jesus said, ‘In my Father’s house there are many room.’ I love that. God wants to room with us. He wants to know us and love us that completely.
2. As familial relationships evolve, so does our relationship with God. Small children see their parents as unknowable, an enigma. How can they enjoy broccoli?! Why do they prefer the news to cartoons?! With time and maturity, not only does a child begin to understand their parents more, but soon they begin to trust their parents for wisdom and guidance. We will never fully understand another human being, much less our infinite God, but overtime we become more familiar with His ways and gradually learn to trust and lean on Him.
3. Just as families benefit from structure and order, so does our relationship with God. Unfortunately, abuse (even from the church) of the concept of submission has created a very negative reaction to the word. In contrast to the oppressive images we conjure up, by watching God-honoring families we can see that order in relationships is a loving thing. Children who don’t trust their parent’s wisdom and rebel against their parameters suffer under their own direction. Parents who don’t discipline their children let them walk into snares. Husbands and wives who deny each other’s strengths and weaknesses limit their families’ ability to function in the healthiest way. Likewise, God’s rules, discipline, and order for our relationship with Him serve to create an environment for flourishing. When we deny His leadership and rebel against His rules, not only is our relationship with Him strained but we also heap up trouble for ourselves.
The list goes on and on. God, Our Father, loves us so. Much more than even the best earthly father ever could. He protects and provides for us. He creates an environment that promotes growth. His rules are for our benefit. And He wants us to know and experience His love.
Look for hints of His love in your family. Be a model of God’s love to your family. Train your eyes to see the fingerprints God’s intentionally left all over this world he’s created. Embrace the mystery and fall more in love with your God.