We named our younger daughter Joy, and she ended up living up to her name. To our family she is a total joy. Perhaps because I never thought I would have a child again, I did not mind the sleepless nights, her cries, or her baby needs quite as much as I did as a younger mom.
Joy moved from a crib to a real bed when she was about two and a half years old. Often, at the crack of dawn she would climb next to me in my bed, squeezing and snuggling tightly against my body. After settling in, she would fall back asleep for a while longer.
Her feather-soft hair would tickle my cheek, and her warm pudgy body, soft to my skin, was a delight to me as I wrapped my arms around this tiny gift and held her tight.
“Mama,” she said thoughtfully early one morning, “this is where I most belong, as close as I can get to you, because I can feel your love better when I am closer.”
Then a smile crept across her little face as she breathed out a sigh and settled into a few more minutes of “love.”
Because Joy was my beloved, prayed-for little girl, I loved having her next to me. I cherished the times I still had a little girl who wanted to be so near me, one who would trust me utterly. As her parent, I was so thankful she wanted to be near her mama. When she crawled into my bed and cuddled next to me, I was filled with happiness and appreciation of the gift she was to me. I loved it that she loved me! It didn’t matter what she had done the day before—
if she had cried a lot
or broken a mug full of juice
or fought with her brother
or disobeyed me
She did not have to promise to be more mature, or confess her faults, or stay away because of having a bad day the day before.
At any time, she could just snuggle up next to me, because as my daughter, she belonged there! I delighted having her near me. She was my own little girl. I loved her with my whole heart, and I loved knowing that she wanted to be close to me and that she depended on me for her security, protection, comfort, and love.
My love for her had nothing to do with her performance. My love was committed, solid, and constant because she was my beloved one.
This is a human picture of God’s parent love for us. The very nature of God is to love. He can do nothing else. His love defines Him, so His love for us is settled forever and cannot be changed.
Of course, we will never come close to the perfection or holiness of God. We are selfish most every day! We often say things that are harsh, do petty things, and act in a stingy or angry way. Yet still He loves us and wants us to be close to Him! It is almost impossible to believe that He could love us even when we are not loving to Him.
In the same way that I did not expect Joy to behave like an adult but accepted her limitations as a normal little toddler, so God is mindful of our own limitations and yet still loves us.
God sees us as toddlers, so to speak. Understanding our fragility, our humanness, He responds to us as I responded to Joy. He is mature even when we are not. He is constant in His love toward us, His commitment, His care for our needs, and His compassion for our heart’s cry. As our heavenly Father, no matter what we do or how we fail Him, He is the constant one, the responsible one. He knows our frame—that we are weak, immature, and imperfect, but He doesn’t require us to perform before we come close. He just wants our heart to trust Him, and He wants us to depend on Him as our loving Father.
When we come to Him as a child—innocent, dependent, trusting, and humble—He welcomes us into the place right next to His heart.