Last summer, John and I were visiting our son and his family for a couple of days. He and his wife had a devotional planned in their home with a group of young adults, so to make things a little calmer for them, we closed the hall door and played with our grandchildren, Jackson and Emmy. For a while we played trains, cars, and dinosaurs in 3-year-old Jackson’s room, and then we played kitchen and “stuffies” (stuffed animals) in almost-2-year-old Emmy’s room. We read books and built magnet houses and gave them horsie rides. We let them crawl all over us, and generally allowed things their parents may or may not typically have the patience for (which, truthfully, is one of the most fun parts about being a grandparent. It was also quite necessary at the time, since they were growing bored with us and had started asking for Momma and Daddy.) We may have even doled out extra M&M’s and let them jump up and down in Emmy’s crib a time or two.
At one point, Emmy was standing happily at her play kitchen eating a play cookie when Jackson rolled the play grocery cart close to her and, out of the blue, rammed her from the side and knocked her over. Wailing commenced. Now, believe me when I say that it takes a lot—a tremendous lot—to make John scold the little boy we love more than we can even put into words! However, that little boy had hurt and mistreated the little girl we love every bit as much. So, I put on my very best disappointed face and John said, in his stern-dad voice, “Jackson, NO SIR, you DO NOT hurt your sister!” This completely took Jackson by surprise, as he had never heard that stern voice from his Pa, and that made him wail, which in turn shattered both my heart and John’s.
This little scene reminded me of a recent Bible class discussion. We had talked about how some of us have a difficult time grasping how a God who says He is rich in mercy can also judge and punish. How can God, who says He loves, forgives, and longs to be with us, be the same God who becomes angry and applies punishment? Is that not contradictory? Now, I am sure there are far more scholarly and theological explanations and rebuttals, but that night a bright lightbulb flipped on in my head. While my mind had already understood the answer, that night my heart very visibly saw it: sin hurts God’s children, and He cannot ignore it. God would not be fair, nor would He be just if He did not defend and protect the innocent. He cannot simply overlook wrong-doing, just as John and I would not have protected Emmy if we had let Jackson’s 3-year-old mischief slide without correction.
But still, at the same time, God desperately loves the one who has done the wrong! Regardless of his little misdemeanor (we know it wasn’t sin—he is an innocent child,) our love for Jackson is exactly the same as our love for Emmy. But sin breaks God’s heart, because it is a barrier between Him and His loved, created one. We know that He wants no one to be eternally separated from Him. He wants every single person He ever created to come to repentance so that He can be in eternal fellowship with them. As a grandmother, I love and long to be with my grandbabies. Let me tell you—there’s nothing better than when those little people run to my arms, squeeze my neck tight and say, “Yaya!” (That’s me!) “I missed you!” And God, whose love is so much greater than ours, pardons and heals and redeems. He crowns us with lovingkindness and compassion. He gives what we need. He vindicates us when we are oppressed. He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and has abundant lovingkindness for us. He doesn’t stay angry, and even when our wrongs are great, He is gracious. His love is immeasurable. It is hard for our human minds to understand the lengths that He went to in order to forgive and redeem us—He took the punishment we deserved! Like a father shows compassion to his children, God has compassion for those who revere Him. He intimately knows each of us and He remembers that we are frail humans. His lovingkindness will always exist for those who keep His covenant and remember and obey His instructions (read Psalm 103.) It is because of His love that He must convict and discipline (Rev. 3:19).
Since that day, I’m sure there have been plenty of times that Jackson has made Emmy cry. Also highly likely is the probability that she has pushed him around more than once! I know that Jordan and Erin must referee often between the two, and I’m thankful that they undertake their parenting responsibility so well (and let’s be real: Yaya would never make a great disciplinarian!) They are fantastic parents. And God is a good, good Father. He will always do the right thing, but that “right thing” may not feel pleasant at the time because it includes correction, discipline and punishment. He has proven to us, though, in an overwhelming way, through the sending of His own Son, that He wants nothing more than to forgive and He longs for our eternal fellowship. Because of Him, I look forward to eternity with my children and grandchildren!