As I write this post, my 4-year-old son is sitting in “time out” because he disobeyed Mom. From his perspective, I am not being nice. But from my perspective, this restrictive act (temporarily curtailing his freedom), is slowly setting my son free. He is learning by cause and effect what is acceptable behavior in relationships so that once he is “full-grown,” he will make good use of all that free will.
Would you agree that Julian’s perspective right now is immature and incomplete? Would you agree that he can trust me, that I have his best interest at heart? Would you agree that I want nothing more than his happiness, and that I yearn for a strong, healthy and loving relationship with him when he is an adult (which is a much longer-term situation than how he feels about me tonight)? Would you agree that what he is experiencing now is less like punishment and more like . . . molding clay (cf. Jer. 19:1-11)?
Think of yourself as a feisty 4-year-old whose loving parent wants nothing more than your happiness, your freedom, and ultimately, your love. Think of God patiently waiting for you to grow in maturity and wisdom – loving you, teaching you and nourishing you along the way. These words from the prophet Hosea tell it perfectly – tell of the parent whose “bands of love” are not always recognized as kindness by the sometimes rebellious, always beloved, child:
When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to [false gods],
and offering incense to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
with bands of love.
I was to them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks.
I bent down to them and fed them (Hosea 11:1-4).