My niece is four years old. Blonde, blue-eyed, precious, full of giggles. She is my treasure.
Two days ago, at a tourist attraction, she ran ahead without anyone in our group realizing it. She had almost slipped through a door out of sight when I saw her.
I sprinted to the door, and my heart was still pounding as I held her close and cautioned, You must never go ahead by yourself, that is dangerous. I love you, and I want you to always be safe.
A few hours later another adult approached me: she had done it again. I kneeled down and asked if it was true. She bowed her head, nodded, apologized to both of us, and flung herself into my arms.
What a lovely ending. Except…
Yesterday, we sat down together at the table to paint our nails. As I was preparing, she started to twist off the top of the nail polish bottle. I asked her to close the bottle and wait.
Alright! She closed the bottle right away. And then twisted it back open.
I repeated that we weren’t ready, and told her to close the bottle, that she needed to wait.
Alright! She chirped again, twisting it shut.
And promptly opened it again, this time toppling the bottle which left iridescent nail polish on her fingers and the table. She furtively wiped her hands together so I wouldn’t notice.
Baby girl — I said evenly — Give me your hands. I will clean you up, but don’t hide your disobedience from me.
These small incidents caught my attention, and I thought, how often I have been in her place.
Not in childhood (although my mother will have plenty of stories), but in my walk of faith, when faced with the need for correction.
So many times, I have knelt in genuine and immediate contrition, drawing comfort from God’s loving embrace. Only to be stubborn and selfish a few days later, ignoring God’s direction and then attempting to clean up the mess by myself.
I love my niece more than words can express. I hope I will always show lovingkindness in moments of correction, no matter how she reacts. Likely I will fail at this.
God however, never fails. There are times God calls out a sharp reprimand to keep us from danger; other times God gently repeats the same command over and over, when we engage in certain negative behaviors. But these moments of discipline are always founded in love. We are God’s treasure, just as certainly as my niece is the apple of my eye.
And if you are about to protest that your sins go far beyond the antics of a four-year old, and that God surely no longer looks upon you with genuine affection, I invite you to read the following verses:
- You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…Isaiah 43:4
- The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17
- O Lord, you are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15
- For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Hebrews 12:6
- “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
- For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10
- For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” Isaiah 41:13