Thursday, May 29, 2008

Slaves and Sons

Yesterday I listened to the commencement address Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, delivered to Stanford University. (By the way, if you ever get a chance to listen to his address I think you will be better for it ). One of Steve's talking points in that commencement deals with his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and the prognosis he received. Initially he was told that he had a few months to live. So in discussing this topic last night with my amazing wife...which by the way, we have had 2 dates in the past 2 nights which is unbelievable...I told her what my greatest fear would be if I received that diagnosis today.

My entire being focuses instantly on my sons. They are so young and have so much of life's journey ahead of them. I really would only want to focus on one thing. I would want them to KNOW...not hear, not think, not have the opinion of a portion of my love...but to absolutely, beyond a doubt, without question understand and accept the vastness of my love for them. I want them to be affected in every fiber of their being the depth of my love. I want them to be forever changed as they accept the blessing of their daddy's love. I want them to walk boldly through this world confident in their acceptance, worth and love that I feel and extend to them every second of every day. And I know that they do not yet have a clue how much my soul, body mind and spirit daily, even minute by minute, longs for them to understand the degree to which they are loved.

I try to tell them directly and they smile and I can tell they feel special. I tell them indirectly when I pray over them and tell God from the deepest, most sincere portals of my heart how wonderful they are and how much God has blessed us with by creating them and allowing us to be their mom and dad. Brook and I show them with our actions too. We do the big things but also the smaller things that may be more meaningful. We read to them, play with them, allow them to work with us even though it slows us up and really hinders our work. We take them places and we provide them with the things we think they need and a lot of what they want. With all of that said, I still don't know if they get it.

They still sometimes act as though they are afraid to come to us with their mistakes. They often fear discipline and punishment so from time to time they have lied about their actions. They act like their acceptance and our love is somehow dependent on performance. Sometimes I sense that they believe that they think they can be good enough to be loved more or that if they are bad enough they will somehow be loved less. Obviously neither of those are possibilities because we can't love them more and could never love them less. I suppose in time they will understand that and live life more and more like the sons they are. Perfect love casts out fear and that love flows from our "Heavenly Daddy".

Jehovah, Adonai, Yahweh, Elohim, Abhir, Kadosh, Yeshah or I AM are names for God listed in the Bible. I am cool with those names and I recognize that often the name of God implies an aspect of God that seems particularly salient to the given situation. Like Jehovah-Rohi is "The God our Shepherd" and that obviously plays well with David as he too shepherds and really understands what that could mean to him. Or Ruth refers to El-Shaddai because that means "God All Sufficient" and she obviously relied on God to meet her needs. But something really amazing and really strange happens with Jesus. God is no longer one who does something for us but from a distance. God is no longer one who is visited by the priests alone...God becomes DADDY. Of course scripture uses the word, Abba.

We have all heard of that, though I would suggest that "Abba" largely remains an intellectual concept for us and has not yet made the all important 12 inch trip from our heads to our hearts. I have that opinion because too often I find myself and others acting more like slaves and sons and daughters. Slaves worry over performance and the repercussions and punishment handed out when performance is lacking. Additionally, slaves know that better performance insures better treatment and more acceptance. Why do we so often shy away from God in the midst of giving in to temptation? Why do we proclaim, "I'm Blessed!" when we have been performing well before our "Master". Why do we look at those prone to failure with contempt all the while giving the seat of honor to those who look good and act like they have it all together? For the same reasons my sons present half-truths when they have made a mistake and point out the fault in their brothers when they haven't given in to temptation. Because they do not yet totally grasp the love their Daddy has for them.

Galatians 4: 4-7 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

How amazing is this? Jesus came not only to save us from our sins but to also make us literal children of God. Because of the "Spirit of his Son" we now can cry out with confidence "Daddy". The greatest story in the world has been written and it goes something like this. As a poor child playing in the street sees the King pass by with His entourage and incredible wealth, majesty and compassion he secretively longs for what can never be. He wishes that he could be the Prince. He doesn't desire the power or even the wealth but he does desire a close, intimate relationship with the King. He longs for the acceptance, confidence and freedom that is only found in the love of the King. Sure the King already has children but this boy just wants to be one too. To the boys great surprise one day he is found by the oldest son of the King. At first he is scared that the Prince would know his name and seek him out on the street...especially in his dirty and poor condition. The Prince leads the boy back to the castle where he is allowed to bathe and put on a special robe. Eventually the boy is lead to the throne room of the King and at last he stands face to face with the King. The King smiles and says "Son I have been waiting for you to come home". This must be a mistake but as the boy looks for answers in the face of the Prince he only finds tears of joy flowing down the cheeks of the Prince. The boy, not quite sure of what is happening begin to cry and The King tells him that he too is a Prince. Apparently the boy was stolen years before and the King has searched the world over trying to find him. The King has never rested and and has never given up His last the boy is back home. He no longer lives in the streets and no longer has to wish he was a Prince. He is a Prince and is loved and accepted by the King. But a problem still exists. The boy has been told for so long that he isn't loved, isn't good and isn't worthy that he has a difficult time understanding and accepting the goodness and love of his Father, his Daddy, the King. The King longs for His son to understand his love and knows that in time He will. Perhaps when the boy first stares into the eyes of his own son, he will get just a taste of what the King has been telling him all along.

Until that time comes the King simply has a desire that is best stated by the King's servant, Paul, in Ephesians 3 and the message is for all of us who are now called "child of God". Having been freed from slavery may we all know the love of our "Daddy":
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.