During a recent family get-together, I was sitting in my grandmother’s guest room rocking my baby girl in silence. As I swayed gently in a rocking chair, admiring my sweet Roseveare, my mind flipped through the many memories I have of nights spent within that room's four walls. Much about the room has changed since my childhood, but the feelings of comfort that have so long characterized my grandmother’s home were just as potent that night as they were decades ago.
A particularly memory rose to the top of this marvelous flood of nostalgia. I remembered sitting on the once plush, white carpet before me as a young girl painting my nails a bright red. As little girls are prone to do, I accidentally spilled the bottle of nail polish. The glaringly red hue seeped into my grandparent’s carpet and great tears of fear began to seep from my eyes. I tried desperately to get as much of the polish out of the carpet’s fibers myself, but it was of no use.
Through great sobs of fear, I explained to my grandmother what had happened. Of course I felt terrible about what I had done, but more than anything my little girl heart was so afraid of her being mad at me for messing up her floor. After all, she was a particularly neat and tidy grandmother.
In my fear, I forgot who my grandmother was. I worried that she would be angry with me and that her opinion of me would be forever altered due to this accident. I didn’t trust that she loved me infinitely more than her white carpet.
As any good grandmothers would, she assured me that everything would be okay. She calmed my fears and sent me to get washed up while she began the hard work of removing the stain. When I returned she was cutting out the threads of red carpet that could not be returned to their former white glory with a pair of scissors. She didn’t scold me and she didn’t punish me. She just cleaned up the mess and told me not to worry about it—It was just carpet after all.
As I lay in bed that night, I fell asleep assured of one marvelous truth: my grandmother loved me, and because she loved me I didn’t have to be afraid of her when I messed up.
God Sent His Son
I think we are often prone to fear our Heavenly Father in the same way I feared my grandmother all those years ago. When we are burdened with the weight of our sin and shame, we don’t naturally run to him, but away from him.
We fear that his holy wrath against sin will fall on us, even though it has already fallen on his Son.
We forget that he loves us, and that his love is what compelled him to send his Son all those years ago to clean up our terrible mess.
That is why little bits of scripture like the end of Galatians 1:4 hit me so hard. They are like a reality check for my prone-to-wander-heart, reminding me of the goodness and kindness of our great God. For Jesus gave himself for our sins, “according to the will of our God and Father.”
Jesus didn’t die on the cross because he was the loving member of the Trinity, while his eternal Father was the the wrathful member. No, our wonderful Jesus died on the cross because it was his Father’s will, and his perfect love for the Father compelled him to obey. It was our Father’s desire that we be forgiven and cleansed from our sin and reconciled to him. It was his will for Jesus to die as our substitute because he loved us.
This is what the earth-shattering gospel verse that we’ve all memorized and become numb to testifies of when it says, “For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” It was his love that sent Jesus. It was his love that saved us.
There's No Fear in Love
When we truly believe that God hasn’t acted as a mere judge who’s acquitted us of our guilt, but rather as a loving Father who has purposefully rescued us from our sins, we can approach him with joy instead of fear. He is the God who sent his own eternal Son to take our place so that we could be brought back into his family—clean and spotless. He is the loving Father who delights in adopting spiritual orphans.
He who has gone to such great lengths to save us and to display his love in such magnificent splendor invites us come to him when we mess up and to receive the grace his Son has secured for us on the cross. We need never fear his wrath, because it has all been spent on the Christ. What was ours (the wrath of God against sin) became his and what was his (the perfect love of the Father) is now ours.
When we sin and are tempted to run from God in fear, we must remember who it is we are running from: the loving Father who goes after his wayward children and frees them from their guilt and shame. He is always ready and willing to “forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
We needn’t run from the One who ran after us.
May we quickly come to him with our most terrible failures and receive the forgiveness and freedom he graciously pours out upon us.
For he is our Father and he loves us.
For Further Thought:
Have you ever been tempted to think of God the Father as the wrathful member of the Trinity rather than the loving Father? As you are reading through the New Testament, keep your eyes open for verses like Galatians 1:4 that point to the Father as the fountain of love who initiated your salvation. You may be surprised by how often it does and your soul will be moved to worship and adore him all the more!