You asked for a loving God: you have one…. Not a senile benevolence that drowsily wished you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, not the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes…. It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring.
– C.S Lewis, The Problem of Pain [emphasis mine]
Which of the religions of the world gives to its followers the greatest happiness? While it lasts, the religion of worshipping oneself is the best.
– C.S Lewis, God in the Dock
In my previous post, I mentioned two main objections to the idea of God that are also reasons that many people hate Him. The first objection was a moral one, in that they find their morals at odds with the Biblical stories of the Judeo-Christian God (where those morals come from is something that they should investigate, as well, but is not the point of this post). The second I claimed was an emotional one: they hate the claim He makes on their lives. I would suggest that an answer to the second objection is directly correlated to the first, in that God acts in the way that He does precisely because He loves us, and wishes that we are perfected through Him. In fact, He acts just like a Father.
It has been said that if you pray for patience, God will give you children. Before I had a child, I had my patience tested by a dog. Every chance she got, she would escape. She was a canine Houdini, and perfected the art of “dancing” just beyond the reach of any would-be captors. As a result of the intense frustration and desire to wring her neck, I was imperious in my use of a leash. I would take her places where I wished nothing but to take her off the leash, and let her jump in the stream or run through the field. My constant thought was, “If only she understood that if she obeyed, she would have greater freedom and happiness than she could ever enjoy while constantly tethered.”
The times I thought about it, I would content myself with the idea that with a child, at least I could explain the reasons that obedience was necessary, and wouldn’t have to deal with the frustrations of dealing with an uncomprehending animal. As it turns out, I was both right and wrong. Having someone comprehend not only that something is demanded, but also why it is demanded, and yet still disobey is infinitely more exasperating. Most of the time, I have very good reasons for my demands, and they are almost always in the best interest of my daughter not only in terms of her safety and enjoyment today, but in the development of her person and character that will benefit her throughout her entire life. I love her more than I love myself, and I want her to become the full embodiment of every blessed gift I see within her.
I sometimes wonder if our mission as a father is just to get our kids to college without completely screwing them up. I am impatient, querulous, competitive, and selfish. I am not a bad father, but I am far from a perfect one. Even though I know the basic goals I have for my child, I am often idiotic in my attempts to help her achieve them. Is it any wonder we grow up with a list of things our parents did that we will never repeat? (At least, until we see that they are the best methods available.) In spite of all this, I know that the basic gist of my parenting is to improve and develop my child, with the understanding that I have some idea based on my experience and knowledge of the preferred results of that development. Her rebellion against me, even in the first years of her life, does not hurt my pride as much as it saddens me. If she could only believe that I have her best interests in my heart, and that both my instruction and discipline are conceived from the deepest love imaginable to admittedly imperfect hearts.
While it is easy to see where this is going, the final point must be made. We desire a loving God, but we do not want Him to make any demands on our lives. We are children, rebelling against the Father that loves us beyond all comprehension and desires nothing less than our eternal and perfected joy. We want to have fun; He knows that we are putting ourselves in a dangerous position. We want that job; He knows that we are not ready for the responsibility. We want that girl; He knows that it will only end up breaking both of our hearts. We want; He knows. We tell our children to obey even when they do not understand, because we know better. God tells us the same thing, and we pretend He does not exist. We scream, “You’re ruining our lives!” He loves us anyway. We pout, and He ensures that the place He has prepared for us is still ready. He is the ultimate Father, loving us despite our unrepentant rebellion, always ready to welcome us into His arms.
The Bible was not written for angels; it was written for men and women. God breathed truths into the Scriptures using precise metaphors that we can understand as a result of our experience in a fallen world, and living with fallen hearts. God is characterized as Our Father, and we can understand what that means if we take the time to try. Of course, there is an important distinction: He created us, and we are welcomed as His children by adoption. He loves us because He chooses to. He gives us both discipline and blessing, beyond the capability of any earthly parent. We have only to obey, and reap the unending joy and peace that He desires for us. Yet, we still want to do it our way. Only a divine humility can allow the Creator of the universe to accept us kicking and screaming, unworthy and unwilling.
“For God so loved the world…”