I was recently watching a father with his young son. The fascinating thing about the scene was that this little boy was adopted, not because the parents had decided to adopt another child, but because the social workers had come to a couple who had thought their family was complete, and asked them to adopt another child in desperate need of a loving home, and moved by love, they had opened their hearts to him and made him a part of their family.
The father was sitting on the floor teaching his son to walk. He stood him up against the sofa and then sat so that when they both extended their arms fully, he was about an inch out of reach. Tentatively the little boy leaned forward until he could just about touch his daddy’s fingertips, and then dared to put one foot forward. Holding onto his daddy’s hands, he continued to take faltering steps until finally he was near enough to collapse into his father’s arms.
Over and over again they repeated the process, and what struck me most of all, even more than the boy’s growing confidence, was the look of radiant delight on the father’s face with every successful step that his little boy took. His joy was infectious and soon his little son began to feel real pride in his achievement, as he saw how proud his daddy was of him.
Eventually the lad became tired. He tried to take the next step, but he was just too weary to go on; his little knees buckled beneath him and he sank to the floor. Without a moment’s hesitation his father scooped him up in his arms, held him close to his heart and smothered him with kisses. Before long the two of them were giggling together.
For me it was the most beautiful picture of God’s fatherhood. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that we have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. But I have often looked at other Christians and compared myself unfavourably with them. Their walk with God is so much more consistent than mine, so much more confident and faith-filled than mine, and I’ve had this image of God tolerating me because He has to, while I wear His patience thin.
But watching this scene of a father with his adopted son it brought home to me that God delights in every step I take, however faltering. If I sometimes miss my step, or lack confidence, or doubt whether His arms are really there to catch me, it doesn’t make a scrap of difference to the joy and excitement with which He watches and encourages my feeblest attempts. And when I fail totally to take the steps I should, and fall flat on my face, far from condemning me, He scoops me up in His arms, holds me close to His heart and showers me with love.
For a long time I’ve called God my Father without really believing the implications of it. But seeing how much a human father can pour healing love on his adopted son recalled to mind for me Jesus’ words: “If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” If the love and delight a human father takes in his child is so great and has such profound effects, how immense and real and life-changing is God’s love!