But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
Over the past few years I’ve experienced an interesting shift in the conscience of my oldest child.
As a toddler, she responded to correction with resistance; as a preschooler, negotiation; and now, as an almost 7-year old, we’ve entered the realm of shame. As life has progressed and her awareness has broadened, she now holds a deeper understanding of cause and effect, sin and consequence. It often breaks my heart to observe her countenance as she is corrected by me (admittedly, not always with grace)..
One evening a few months ago, her response to my correction was over the top. While she was sobbing uncontrollably, I felt the Lord say, “Just hold her.” So I sat on her bed, embraced her, and held her tight so she could feel the strength of my love.
“Why are you so mad at me?” she whimpered between cries.
“Oh, sweetie. I’m not mad. I’m so sorry I responded harshly. I am frustrated with how you are acting but I am not mad at you. I love you so much. Nothing you ever do could change that. I love you no matter what.”
She sank into my arms and her cries began to fade. We sat there for a while, both soaking in the relief of unconditional love.
I feel so ill-equipped to write about this kind of love at the moment. But perhaps that fact actually makes me qualified.
The very essence of unconditional love is that it is so steadfast, so strong it pierces through our mess until it is felt at the very core of who we are, where we are.
I’ve always thought I had to love my children with a love like that of the Father; full of patience, favor and lots of grace. Despite my less-than-perfect faith journey, I have never doubted God’s unconditional love for me. So how could it be hard to bestow such love on my long-awaited, deeply-adored offspring?
I am a minister of God’s unconditional love to my children but they do not receive perfect love from me. Instead, the real, messy, imperfect, human love that I am able to give them is perfected through Him. This understanding has removed the pressure I once felt to love my children perfectly and it’s helping me become a model before their very eyes as I humbly receive unconditional love from my heavenly Father.
Loving them well is not something I can do on my own, not even close.
In my humanity I am not capable of unconditional love.
When I love my children and those around me in partnership with Christ, they will feel the supernatural covering of His perfect love.
I don’t have a formula or seven tips for how to help a child understand unconditional love. To offer such advice would imply that I have figured it out. My simple offering to other parents in the trenches that desire to share true, godly love with their children is to become a master of receiving His perfect love for them. Adult children of God who live in the light of His incredible love have the only chance of bestowing this gift on their children.
When I receive His unconditional love and allow it to cover my parenting, my children will see perfect love exchanged for the offering of my best.
In this way I am a conduit of His love, the very first expression of it in the lives of my children.
When I lack, He fills in the gaps.
When I struggle, He brings strength.
When I am weary, He offers rest.
When I mess up, He offers grace.
And when my children observe and experience this exchange, then and only then, will they truly come to understand unconditional love. My prayer is for our family to humbly receive and freely give a love like that of the Father.
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How do you help your kids understand unconditional love, especially the younger ones?