I recently listened to a TEDx talk where the speaker told a story of a little boy. When the speaker asked that little boy who he wanted to be like when he grew up, the boy immediately responded by saying, “my dad”. As the speaker tried to explain to the boy more about the question, the boy simply went on to say, “If only you knew my dad. My dad loves me very much.”
Wow! This story personifies everything that we are meant to be as Christians. Our desire needs to be the imitation of our Father God, to be like Him. We can try to imitate Him on our own as if imitating Him will win us praise or a prize. But, we will eventually fail and feel frustrated. On the other hand, if we can first understand that our Father loves us so much even when we do nothing to please Him, imitating Him will be a response to love. It won’t be a forced task nor a tedious obligation.
I was recently in a conversation with a priest who expressed his disagreement about viewing God as just our “loving Father” who provides everything we need. I agree with my dear priest that God is not just a store where we go to order everything we need, turn around, and leave. But, I don’t agree with him on the other point. I do think that we need to first and foremost view God as our loving Father. If we cannot come to this realization first, trying to bypass this point and going straight into obedience, meditation, or service will become very tedious. As an Orthodox Christian Priest, what he said was not very surprising to me. I think some Orthodox Christians feel a need to respond to God with their rational mind only, which is not wrong but also not complete. Our hearts have to be immersed into our response to God’s love. Only when both our hearts and minds have understood and experienced God’s love, can we really respond to His love and desire to be more like Him – out of love and for no other reason.
Proverbs 23:26 says, “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.”
To me, this verse asks me to give God my heart first and then through my mind I can surrender to God my ways and walk according to His ways – observe His ways. I am not a Bible expert, but I am simply meditating on this verse. This verse also tells me who I am to God: I am His son (His daughter :)) – His child. I am not a random stranger. I am not in a separate family from God. I am, in truth, His daughter.
The rational knowledge of this and the heart-felt experience of this are more important to me than any material thing I could receive from God. But in order or me to really have a full grasp of the knowledge of God’s love and who I am to Him and who He needs to be for me, I must experience God’s love. Head knowledge is not everything…I can understand a scientific phenomenon with my mind, but I would still have no idea what it means if I cannot experience it so it remains just a theory, or worse, a speculation. I believe that Our Loving God never leaves us simply desiring to experience Him without offering us peace and joy that only comes through His Holy Spirit and the experience of His kindness and love.
If ever asked who I would like to be when I “grow up”…I hope I am brave enough like that little boy in the story and respond saying, “my Father”. Then, whenever someone tries to convince otherwise, I can have enough love in my heart to say, “If only you knew my Father, my God. He loves me very much.”