Knowing God as Father
I didn’t know what it was like to not be on the team until I wasn’t on the team. There are some things you only learn through experience. Failing is one of them. Growing up, I wasn’t given a lot of opportunity to fail. Succeed was what I did. Strive, work, impress. If I thought there were a slight chance I didn’t have what it took, I would respond in one of two ways: exhaust myself until I figured out how to develop the necessary skill or run in the complete opposite direction so no one would know I lacked what I needed.
It wasn’t until a few years ago I realized my need to succeed was actually a fear of failure. I feared failure because I lived for approval. I conditioned myself to be who everyone needed me to be because not being good enough was not an option. This led me to a lot of work, a lot of inner conflict and a life of outer competition. I competed with everyone around me, even when they didn’t know it. I rated and ranked myself, all the time. Lined my gifts up with the best of the best. Compared my style and ability to everyone within reach. I was exhausted by those better than me and relieved by those who fell short.
At all times, I was aware of who was sitting at the table and who was standing behind the table, hoping for a chair. If I have a regret of my twenty’s and early thirty’s it is of not recognizing how big is the Father’s table. The freedom I’ve experienced in realizing I don’t earn my spot and nothing I do or don’t do will keep me from it. Recognizing and receiving the abundance of fruit and life has changed the way I interact with those around me and also the way I interact with myself. I don’t have to work so hard because nothing I do increases what He has already given me. If I had it to do over again, I would spend my time pulling out chairs for those around me, rather than protecting and guarding my own.
If you grew up in religion, it’s one of those things you don’t know until you know. I knew God was my Father, but I didn’t know Him as my Father. No amount of external work develops the intimacy of a deep parental relationship. I love having older kids. They are fun. Each year, we are experiencing more and more freedom together. They are responsible and capable human beings. With their maturity, I have been able to leave them at home by themselves as I do things like run to the grocery or jump into a quick boxing class. The other day, I went to workout and left Ella and Addy home. My only instructions were to stay inside and keep the house clean because we were having friends over for dinner. The girls must have picked up on all I wanted to get done before our friends came over, because when I got back in the car after my workout I had a text message from Addy telling me to come upstairs for my surprise.
Pulling into the garage I wondered what they could have done, alone in the house, to surprise me. Addy met me at the door, “perfect timing mom! We just finished.” She grabbed my hand and led me upstairs to the loft and their bedrooms. “Tada,” she exclaimed as she presented me with their well organized, sparkling clean rec room. “It gets even better, go look in our bedrooms,” Ella said. I made my way through the upstairs, carefully noticing every small detail; made beds, throw pillows, emptied trash cans, organized books, carefully dusted dressers. They had done it all! They were so proud and I was so blessed. I hugged them and said thanks from the bottom of my heart. How hard they worked to help me meant so much.
That morning, I was extremely thankful for my girls and the way they served me, but I didn’t love them anymore than I did when I left them in the mess they created so I could go workout.
They didn’t earn more of my love by cleaning and working for me. They had all of my love to begin with. They have a permanent spot at the Dooley family table. Nothing they do or don’t do will take their spot away. They may choose to take their inheritance and step away, sowing seeds somewhere in the world or they may choose to take their family inheritance and put it to good use. I pray everyday for the later, but either way, the table and their seat at it, remains
It took a lot to realize God doesn’t love me because of what I can do for Him. He didn’t choose me because He knew I would be a good speaker and I would work really hard for Him. He doesn’t favor me because of the way I write or teach. He doesn’t even delight more in me because our family has decided to live life missionally. I am not moving my way up to a place where He will be able to enjoy me even more. I have all of Him, right now. Right where I am. All of His love. From the moment I was born, actually even before I was born, He was smitten with me. Over the moon, thrilled to watch me grow and learn. I am totally His Favorite!
He loves you too. So much. More than you could ever realize. And it has nothing to do with anything you have or haven’t done. You are actually the apple of His eye. He has a seat at the table reserved for you. An inheritance unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before.
The day I came into the family, He pulled out my chair, welcomed me to the table and offered the entire Kingdom. Whatever my heart desired. It was free. All of it. Unfortunately, my shame pulled me up and convinced me I better get to work so I could keep all He freely gave. He may have forgiven me, but I hadn’t forgiven myself. I had done too much, gone too far, run too hard. I was going to prove to Him I was sorry. I would do whatever it took to show Him how much He could trust me. And so I started working. In the name of Jesus, I worked hard to keep my spot at the table. Striving and producing, running full speed after success. Problem was, when I got there, I realized earning my spot had little to do with Jesus and alot to do with myself.
What makes us do that?
Get up and start working to keep what we have been freely given. No part of me wanted to be an earner of God’s grace. I knew what Scripture said about it, “and if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were grace would no longer be grace,” (Romans 11:6, NIV.) I wanted to receive it. I just never learned how. No one taught me to be a good receiver.
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 18:3, NIV.)
Grace needs giving, but it also needs receiving. There is so much more He can do if we will lay down our need to achieve and let Him push through. What does it look like this Christmas for you to receive the gift of Jesus? Mary received the seed of the unborn Savior. Joseph received His invitation to trust in a plan greater than His. Both did little, but received much. He is the gift we all need to unwrap this Christmas. Like excited, expectant children on Christmas morning, He has something so amazing for each of us.