Special Edition #2: July 27, 2003
It Happened Again
They say lightning never strikes twice. I say they're wrong -- because it happened to me. It struck again last August 17th in the form of a 7 pound, 9 ounce little girl named Kyrsten Amanda Gilcrease -- and my heart still hasn't quit racing.
When her older sister was born two years ago, I struggled to find words to express the inexpressible. When a father holds his little girl for the first time, everything else in life has a way of fading into the background. I remember thinking that first time, "I could never love anyone as much as you."
Well, I was wrong. Standing in the hospital holding my little Kyrstie, I was struck by the miracle of love rekindled. How does it happen? How can a heart so enamored by one become, at the same time and in the same way, so in love with another? Surely, in order to give love to one some measure must, of necessity, be taken from the other. It only stands to reason.
But experience says otherwise. Somehow, some way, love endures and remains undiminished. I won't attempt to explain it because, quite simply, I cannot. Yet its truth is undeniable. Apparently, it's one of those things in life (and there are many, aren't there?) whose truth is quite obvious to anyone who's paying attention, though attempts to describe it fall embarrassingly short.
Like the love of a Greater parent. One day, a long time ago, God sat on a hillside somewhere in the Middle East and said to those who had gathered, "If you love only those who love you, what good is that? ... If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. (Matthew 5:46a, 47 NLT) The point was plain. Love that is limited to only those who love us back is no love at all.
The old saying is true: Love is a verb. It's not a feeling but a choice. Love has been defined as "a conscious decision to act for the higher good of someone else no matter what the cost may be." Do you see the difference? Love, as it is popularly thought of, is about feeling and emotions and the like. Therefore, it is fully centered on the one experiencing the emotion. In direct contrast, real love -- God-like love -- is fully centered on the one towards whom the love is directed. It is much less about the one who loves as it is about the one who is loved.
Points to Ponder:
This, by the way, is where many well-intentioned parents trip up. Out of their genuine, God-given even, emotional love for their child they will often do whatever is necessary to protect their child from the consequences of his or her own behavior. In doing so, they reason they are simply showing their child how much they love them. Truth be told, however, they are acting more on their own behalf than on that of the child. For in so doing they are really acting to protect themselves from experiencing the pain of seeing their loved one endure the consequences of their actions. Meanwhile, their child is deprived of the opportunity, painful though it may be, to learn from the consequences and subsequently grow. As a result, it's not uncommon to see these situations perpetuate themselves well into, and sometimes through, adulthood. Often in these kind of circumstances, the greatest demonstration of God-like love is for the parent to endure the pain that comes with allowing their child to suffer the difficult consequences of their actions. In the long run, this kind of "tough love" will benefit the child the most by allowing them to learn and grow. If you doubt that, recheck the definition of love given above and give it some thought.
True to his character, God models what He preaches. The scripture tells us, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8 NIV). Did you catch that? Isn't that God doing exactly what we've been talking about? Have you ever stopped to consider the pain God endured (physical, certainly, but also emotionally, spiritually, and probably in ways we cannot even fathom) for your benefit? "Well," you may say, "I don't see the need," or, "I never asked for it." That's just it. "If you love only those who love you..."
God knew you needed it, so he did what needed to be done without having to be asked. He acted, at great cost to himself, on your behalf for your greatest good. "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 NIV) And for what does he ask in return? Nothing, really. Yes, you read that right. One of the things that sets Christianity apart from every other major world religion is that it clearly teaches that there is no way to earn God's favor -- you simply can't get "good enough" for God. If we could we would inevitably end up proud which was the sin that messed everything up to begin with. (Read the first few chapters of Genesis.) In Ephesians we're told, "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9 NIV)
The God of the Bible says, "No, you can't restore our relationship by being 'good enough'. Here, I offer my love as a free gift. You don't have to earn it -- in fact, you can't. Just receive it."
So there you have it. Nothing complicated, nothing fancy. Just the plain truth as best as I understand it.
You know, there's something fitting about being reminded of God's love for me as I look into the eyes of my little girl. I can't explain it, I can't reason it out -- but I know it is real and I know it will endure forever. Kyrsten Amanda -- your daddy loves you more than he knows how to say. You're number two in line but you'll never be number two in my heart. Somehow, some way I know but can't explain, I love you every bit as much as your big sister. You have a uniqueness and a beauty all your own, and my prayer to my God is that you will grow up knowing -- first and foremost -- how very deeply and dearly the Creator of the universe loves you, and second -- that Daddy's not far behind.
Someday, Kyrstie, I'll be a better man for having shared this life with you.
Next Lesson: When the Roots Grow Deep, Part 2