When Only an Embrace Will Do



Have you seen the youtube videos of children greeting their camo-clad father or mother upon their return from oversees military service? I have watched several through tears. Watching little ones jittering as if they need to use the bathroom while waiting for Dad or Mom to come into view, then seeing them rush with outstretched arms to a parent who own arms have longed to hold their beloved child gets me every time.

I imagine that when Dad, for example, was gone for all that time Mom tried hard to offer their child a good explanation.

  • “Daddy is working hard far away to protect and serve our country.”
  • “I know you miss Daddy, sweetie.  He’s doing a really important job and he’ll be home as soon as he can.”
  • “What does Daddy do?  Well, he fixes big tanks and trucks so people can use them to help keep others safe.”
  • “You know Daddy is a pilot, right? Well, right now he’s flying things like food and medicine to people far away who wouldn’t have those things without Daddy.”

I don’t know a single child who would understand why their Daddy or Mommy needed to be the one to do these things. What child would say, “Oh, I get it. Now it makes perfect sense why I won’t see my Dad or Mom for a year.  Thanks!”

Explanations don’t satisfy kids who miss and want their parents when only an embrace will do. A child who misses Mommy or Daddy can’t fathom any reason good enough for not having them tuck them in bed at night month after month or missing their birthday party or not being there on Christmas morning. The only thing they want is to be with Dad or Mom…now.

And that’s what their parents want, too. Seeing the beaming faces of mothers and fathers on those videos clutching their kids, often with tears streaming, fills my own heart with joy.

I’ve been thinking about how this relates to my relationship with God. You see, sometimes I think knowledge will help, especially during difficult seasons. There have been numerous times when trials or suffering left me craving an explanation.

  • “If I just knew why this was happening, I’d feel better.”
  • “God, just explain how all this is going to ‘work together for good’ (Romans 8:28) and then I’ll feel better.”
  • “So, Lord, what’s the purpose in this awfulness? Help me understand and it’ll be easier to endure.”

During challenging times it helps me to realize that knowledge isn’t what I need; I need God Himself. The answer to difficulties isn’t explanation but relationship. You see, even knowing the future good that will come “someday” isn’t all that comforting in the midst of sorrow, loneliness or disorienting circumstances. Knowing that “down the road” fruit will come from a dry and painful season doesn’t take today’s sadness and weariness away.

The only thing that makes today’s hardships lighten is the Father’s embrace.

Are you going through a tough time? Do you believe that having God sit down and explain why this is happening and the good things that will come from your pain will really help you? Consider Job. If he knew that his dead children would be “replaced” by future children, would he have said, “Oh, I get it. That makes me feel better.” No. Knowledge just begs new questions, not fresh peace.

When we Christians are hurting and craving explanations for tough times, what we need is to tangibly experience the nearness, comfort and warmth of God’s embrace. Hearts that crave knowledge bow to arms that feel welcomed and loved.

I pray you’ll find the strength to let go of the demand for explanation and knowledge and just run into your Father’s eager arms. You’ve missed Him, not answers.

A Consignment Sale Reminder

Yesterday I went to a consignment sale held in a huge room full of toys, clothes and baby items. The only things that are accepted in this wonderful sale are clean, gently used items in good condition that have all the pieces. It was fun to shop with my daughter, Janelle, who is expecting her first baby — my twelfth grandchild. I found a beautiful high chair to add to my collection for visiting grandchildren for a fraction of the cost of new!

As I picked up each item I was mostly impressed with the condition and prices. But once I found the items I was mainly looking for, I found myself noticing little things that didn’t point to necessarily gentle use.  Toward the end of my shopping time I realized that I was unfairly evaluating some of the items. They were, in fact, used!

When I left I found myself thinking about being “gently used” and “in good condition.” I smiled to myself as I was driving home. I’m grateful that I don’t typically feel like I have to clean myself up to make a good impression on people. Most of the people in my life are more than gracious to overlook the smudges, wrinkles and dings about me. Or to recognize that they, too, are flawed. But sometimes I’ve felt that my good condition just hasn’t been good enough for some. Have you?

As a Christian, it’s wonderful to know that God’s evaluation of me is through the lens of His Son’s perfect obedience. When Jesus Christ died on the cross He absorbed every sin and flaw about me and then granted to me His righteous life. Yes, I still sin. And ask anyone who knows me: I’m flawed!

While I care about what others think and want to live with them in mind (like Jesus did), I am incapable of never hurting or disappointing others. When I do, I want to take responsibility for messing up and ask forgiveness when appropriate. But even in my most flawed state when anger or bitterness or jealousy or lust or selfishness is knocking on the door of my heart and mind — and even when I give in and outright sin — Jesus stands eager to remind me that nothing can separate me from His love and His favor is never withdrawn from me. He loves repentant sinners, before and after we sin. How amazing.

He knows I’m gently used and because of His sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the grave, I’m in good condition. What a thought!

If you, like me, struggle with craving the approval of others and wish people didn’t pick you up and notice your every flaw, consider Jesus. If you belong to Him your flaws and smudges are just reminders that you have the marks of being in a fallen world on your life.

But Jesus already paid the price to buy you for His very own. I would never have been clean enough to earn His love and favor.

Gently or not-so-gently used. In good or bad condition. Broken. Dented. Dirty. Tossed aside we come.

And He buys us anyway.

I am Loved

I am loved not because of how I look. Where I live. How clean or organized or pretty my house is.

I am loved not because of who I know or who knows me.

I am loved not because of how my kids act or whether they are godly. Mannered. Smart. Successful. Humble.

I am loved not because I’m mature or respectable.

I am loved not because I have a godly husband.

I am loved not because I exercise self-control and don’t say hurtful things that come to my mind.

I am loved not because I work hard in my home. Cook nice meals. Launder the sheets regularly.

I am loved not because I choose to give to others when I’m hurting or tired or sick and need help myself.

I am loved not because I read my Bible and worship God alone in my bedroom.

I am loved not because I do all these things consistently, because I don’t.

I am aging. Getting wrinkled. Know many women who are far more attractive than I.

I don’t know anyone “important.” Have never met a famous person. Wrote books that are now out of print. And only a handful of people will ever read this blog post. 🙂

My children do not always act as I (and God) would like. They are delightful; loving; kind to me. They are becoming men and women of character that bring me joy and who glorify God with their lives. But they sin. Do things that tempt me to be embarrassed. Disappoint me. Just as I do them.

I can be immature in my thinking and actions. Still a work in progress. Am not always respectable in my conduct and attitudes.

My husband and I both live with sinners. He is amazing. Gracious. Patient. Yet sometimes insensitive. Selfish. Proud. As am I.

I sometimes silence the choice of  self-control. Say things I regret. Have unkind, judgmental thoughts. Become resentful.

I am tempted to be lazy in my home. Choose things I want to do rather than those I ought to do. Procrastinate.

I choose not to serve. Long to be served. Quench promptings to give out of my weakness.

I sometimes skip my devotions and choose to rely on myself.

I am a mixture of godliness and sin.

Strength and weakness.

Maturity and childishness.

One day I am trusting and hopeful. The next I am fearful and discouraged. My heart is fickle.

Both joy and sorrow reside simultaneously within a heart that is gracious and critical. Humble and proud. Me-centered and others-focused.

Yet this conflicting woman is loved because He chose to set His love upon me.

I am loved not because of anything worthy in myself or because He needed me.

I am loved because before the foundation of the world He knew me. Named me. Called me. Chose me. And will fulfill His promise to complete the work He began.

I am loved on my good days and my bad. When I am industrious and when I’m lazy. When I choose to act and speak what is right, and when I sin with my attitudes and words.

I am a Christian so I am loved.

And because there is nothing I can do to make Him stop loving me I am secure.

I don’t have to prove anything to myself or others.

When I sin I can run to a throne of grace to find strength to confess my sin to Him and then to others without shame or condemnation.

I am loved because He rose from the dead, proving once and for all that His shed blood was accepted as the atoning sacrifice for meYes, ME!

I am loved…and soon and very soon the light and momentary difficulties of this life will be over. I will worship Him and fellowship with the cloud of witnesses (Dad, Mom, my brother, uncles, cousins, aunts, friends) in sinless abandonment.

I know I am loved because He hung naked on the cross to forever say, “There is nothing that can or will ever happen to you, in you, around you, or by you that will ever make me love you one ounce more or less than I do this day.”

I am loved. Period.

Why, Lord?  Why me?