Not too long ago I gave Gracie her first prayer journal. She has filled it with picture prayers and praises that have amazed me. I was recently flipping through her prayer journal and saw a picture of two people under a rainbow with hearts that said: “Mom and Dad.”
“Gracie, what is this one about?” I asked.
“Well,” she said, very seriously, “I drew that one day when you and Daddy sent me to my room. I was being pretty bad and you were reaaallly mad at me. I drew it when I was sitting on my bed, because I was just loving you so much. I was thankful for you and Daddy. You love me and you teach me what is right. I was thanking God for you.”
I was silent for I do not even know how long. I still can’t fathom this thought process in an 8-year- old. I did not think like this at eight. I don’t think I think like this now! How often have I been thankful for the “discipline” of others? My own parents… teachers… preachers…. bosses…mentors… my own husband….and moreover— My Father in Heaven? In the moment of being “called out” on my “bad behavior” no matter how gently it may have been done, I could say my response was most likely defensiveness and rebellion… self-righteousness and self-justification. I’m pretty sure it was not a heart welling with praise and thanksgiving that these forces for the good of my character and the shaping of my soul loved me enough to “teach me what was right.” I know I eventually have come to those conclusions… later… MUCH LATER— in most cases, probably YEARS later. Such is the state of the rebellious human heart.
The Bible teaches us firmly that every bit of God’s discipline is grounded in love.
“Because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” (Proverbs 3:12)
How many of us are thanking God in the midst of His discipline, and loving Him because we know how much He loves us?
My heart has been sitting on this notion of being thankful to the Lord for how much he loves us. He loved us through the wisdom of His discipline, true- but even more so, He has also loved us through His grace and mercy.
The truth is that in any given moment of the Lord’s discipline, I am not really getting the punishment I deserve. He is sparing me… He has spared me. Because of Jesus Christ, the discipline I experience is infinitesimal compared to what it ought to be. God saw the undisciplined mess of human kind— of me and you and He sent His son to save us from the punishment we really deserved. The Lord Jesus came to earth and He lived the life we should have lived- matchless and perfect. And then He died the death we should have died— under the full unfiltered wrath of God’s judgement… FOR me… and for you…
“This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sin.” (1 John 4:10)
He loves us. He loves us enough not just to “teach us what is right” through the wisdom of His discipline, but also through the loving power of His grace and mercy. How thankful am I for this love?
A few nights ago I tucked Grace into bed and kissed her goodnight. “I love you…” I said.
With her soft voice she replied smiling: “Thank you!”
“Thank you?” I asked.
“Yeah!” She said as if I were silly to ask such a question. “Thank you that you love me!”
My heart swelled. I realized that as often as I told her “I love you!” a majority of the time her response was not the rote; “I love you too.” but, rather a sing-song: “Thank you!”
I gaze over my life and think of how often the Lord Jesus has told me that He loves me… and how much I take it for granted— whether in His discipline or in His bountiful blessing. I wonder how much of my response is rebellion or rote response.
As we sit around the table today in Thanksgiving with family and friends, I know this year my heart will be welling up with more than thanksgiving for the food before me and the hands I hold around the table. This year, I am holding this Thanksgiving as a moment to gaze forward— to that “silent night” when Heaven broke through and the King of Heaven and Earth came to rescue me. It was that moment where the Lord said “I love you” through the greatest gift human kind has ever seen- Emmanuel, God with us. But I’m also looking farther down the corridor of time and beyond the manger— to the Cross where the God of heaven thundered his “I love you!” and taught me what love really looks like… grace and mercy and sacrifice…
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34)
Lord, Thank you.
Thank you that you love me.