God is skilled at giving us windows of insight into Himself in unexpected places. Our relationship with our children is one of those unexpected places. Now, in many ways it should be normal to see parallels because we look to God as children to a Father. However, it is unique because the parallels work in more directions than one.
Children are token factories. By that, I mean that they are constantly giving us tokens of love and memories. Be it a hug, a smile, a picture, a leaf, or even the way that children are quick to tell us that they love us, we are constantly reminded of their love and affection. This love has a unique capacity to effectively soften and penetrate a cold heart and a distracted mind. They are quick to forgive us and they relish the joy of restored relationship when a problem arises. In this, they reflect the love of the Father for us.
However, it also works in the other direction. Because they are sinners as well, we as parents are often called to model the love of the Father towards them. We are called to be long suffering when they are immature. We are called to be comforting when they are scared and hurting. When they are insecure, we are tasked with being a rock—a rock of stability as well as a rock of assurance. When they inevitably sin, we are the ones who speak God’s forgiveness to them. So in a converse fashion, we reflect the love of the Father to them. As we do this, we are reminded likewise of God’s same love for us. When we are faithful as parents, we see God in it. When we fail as parents, we see the perfection of God’s love that far transcends our feeble efforts.
When we are either the recipients of this love or channels of this love to our children, we should be driven to gratitude, because this love doesn’t originate with us. It originates with God. All other expressions of love are derivative of God’s perfect love. Knowing that this love is lavished on us is not only for our pleasure, but for our sanctification. As we grasp God’s love for us, our love for Him likewise grows. This should drive us to holy living, because knowledge of God’s love is more than mere comfort, assurance and encouragement. It is also the greatest of all antidotes to sin. For what is sanctification, but the transformation of our nature from one bent on sin to one bent on holiness?
Our relationship with our children is also a mirror of our relationship with the Father in the never-ending nature of our shepherding love. While our context might change as they grow older, move out, and transition into our adult lives, we never stop being a parent. When our children suffer, we want to comfort them. When they wander. we pursue them, so that they may return to the fold of faithfulness. When they repent, we forgive them, so that they can know the graciousness of our love for them. These are all imperfect reflections of the perfect love of our heavenly Father for us. What we do imperfectly, He does without fail. While we often make mistakes in our parenting, He never does.