It is always startling when one of my children calls me by my first name. The sound of their tiny voices, saying the word "Jessalyn" or the more familiar "Jess" catches me off guard. They've only recently begun to experiment with names in this way as they've only recently begun to understand that their mommy and daddy have proper names just like they do.
Of course, as they've dipped their toes into the exciting waters of proper name usage, we've had to remind them that they are not to call us by our first names, they are to continue calling us Mommy and Daddy. "But everyone else gets to call you Jess!" my middle son pleads.
"Ah," I respond, "that is where you are confused. Everyone else simply calls me Jess, but only you four get to call me Mommy. It is the name 'mommy' that holds the most special significance, not the name 'Jess,' because 'mommy' points to the very special relationship that I have to you four children, a relationship that I don't have with any other people on this planet. "
I don't know that this concept fully sunk in during our conversation. After all, the blessedness of having loving and committed parents to care for you is rarely appreciated by children until they are much older. Much, much older.
Like the majority of children, I know that they will have the tendency to take for granted that which is most familiar to them. Lord willing, they will go most of their lives before experiencing life without a mom, and thus they will rarely feel the significance of the gift they've been given.
They will continue to call me "Mommy," but fail to realize how blessed they are to do so.
I've experienced this tendency in my own life. From my parents, to my brother, to my friends, and now, to my dear husband, it seems I've never found it difficult to take for granted the greatest gifts in life.
Thankfulness is a habit that I must intentionally practice; I cannot fall into it.
And so, this morning I find myself brought low by the flippant way I continue to read over these words from Paul: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father."
I must stop and practice the art of thankfulness - rehearsing the glories of God's fatherliness to me.
For this most basic definition of the first member of the Trinity fills my Bible! Yet I'm prone to ignore its significance, taking for granted one of the most important spiritual realities in the universe.
I forget what it means for God to inherently be a father to creation.
Consequently, I neglect to contemplate the beauty of his fatherly affections for and careful attention to his creation.
Most tragically, I rarely allow myself to meditate on the rich relationship between this Father and his eternal Son, whom he's been begetting, loving, and glorifying since eternity past - an eternal reality that has profound present implications for me.
I take for granted that we - who were so lost and so broken in our sins - have been lovingly and sacrificially brought back into God's family by the giving of his beloved Son.
This Father, set his gaze upon us from before time began, sent his only begotten Son to die for us, rescuing us from the curse of sin, bringing us back home to the Father, and thus securing our eternal adoption into his family.
This is amazing grace.
How tragic that I neglect the truth that God is first and foremost, Father.
Michael Reeves challenges my view of God's fatherliness in his book Delighting in the Trinity:
Isn't it strange how we overlook this important truth?
Alas, not only do we overlook his fatherliness, we go so far as to completely replace this loving picture with a false one.
When thinking of this first member of the Trinity, we don't initially think of his love. No, we tend to think of his wrath and judgement before all else.
We see him as holy - which is perfectly well founded - but we only see his holiness in relationship to his wrath against sin. Thus, we view him as continually angry, unsatisfied, and judgmental toward us when we continue to struggle with the sin that indwells us.
We forget that his holiness must also be applied to his fatherly love toward those he has counted righteous through the blood of his Son.
We view Jesus as our intercessor - which is also perfectly well founded - but not as the intercessor that the Father lovingly provided. We view him instead as the intercessor that stands between us and the angry God who seems bent on punishing us.
We forget that the Son was obeying the Father when he sacrificed himself for our salvation. The Son was not acting on his own accord.
How wrong we are to pit the Father against the Son in our minds in this way. It is not that the Father is the holy, wrathful member of the trinity and the Son is the loving, merciful member who saves us from his father's judgement! They are not divided in nature or cause.
Rather, the Father is always continually loving and life-giving because he is inherently Father.
It is his love and life-giving that flows to us through the Son.
All that we experience through Jesus, is a gracious gift from our loving Father.
This, we must not forget or belittle.
Reeves expresses the beauty of Gods fatherly love flowing to us through the Son in one of my favorite quotes from his book:
And so, I'm reminded through Paul's "simple" greeting to the Corinthians, to practice the discipline of awe. I must allow myself to contemplate the vast riches that are mine as a daughter of this glorious Father. Today I must ponder the immeasurable love that flows down to me from the Father, through the Son...
"Grace to you, and peace from God our Father," Paul says!
Grace and peace!
These are the magnificent gifts he delights in lavishing upon me every day through the Son because he is my Father.
Though I may face trials and tribulation today, the Father loves me. Though I may sin and mess up again and again, the Father loves me. Though every other person on this earth may turn their backs on me, the Father loves me.
In this blessed hope I must persevere and thrive, and in his loving embrace I find hope and joy for each new day.
He is not just God to us, dear sisters. To us he is "Father."
Don't forget it.
And don't discount it.