by David Romanik
A few Saturdays ago, I found myself in the parenting weeds. Sarah Beth was at an appointment, and I was holding down the fort at home. While the oldest and youngest children were reasonably cooperative, my two-year-old middle daughter was operating at both peak two-year-old and peak middle child. Her response to every request and every instruction was a defiant “No!” She refused to eat her lunch, refused to be kind to her sisters, and refused to do anything remotely helpful. Eventually, she entered full “meltdown mode,” meaning that any attempt at redirection was met with a bloodcurdling scream. I will confess that my frustration was getting the better of me. When I realized that she needed a diaper change, whatever patience I had disappeared. I scooped her up much more forcefully than I would have under normal circumstances and carried her to her room, muttering something about why she hasn’t learned to use the potty yet. As I dumped her onto the changing table, I heard her say something. “What?!” I demanded, assuming that she was continuing her rant. “I still love you, Dad,” she replied quietly.
I probably don’t need to tell you that my daughter’s gentle confession completely changed the tenor of our interaction. Right after she finished speaking, I felt my knees go weak and my eyes well up with tears. I was convicted by the implication that she felt love for me despite my all too evident frustration and impatience. Indeed, saying that she still loved me threw these regrettable traits into sharp relief, forcing me to confront the ways I had failed to be the parent I aspired to be. Most importantly, this moment reminded me that my primary interaction with my daughter should be shaped, not by her capacity to do what I ask her to do, but by my love for her. To put it another way, it reminded me that unconditional love often requires us to overcome some conditions.
The season of Lent has just begun. We often misunderstand Lent as a time to beat ourselves up for the ways that we have failed to follow God’s commandments or meet God’s expectations. Of course, we do spend a lot of time in Lent considering the various ways that human beings have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Yet this consideration of our human frailty is actually an invitation to ponder the depth of God’s love. Indeed, Lent is a time when we are called to remember that God still loves us, despite the times we have behaved as if this were not true. What’s more, God’s steadfast and faithful love helps us to recognize the ways we have failed to honor the image of God in ourselves and others. The fact that God loves us in spite of our sins forces us to confront the ways we have fallen short of who are called to be. A true appreciation of God’s love, in other words, invites a genuine reckoning with our own human frailty.
As you observe the season of Lent, both on your own and within the Heavenly Rest community, I invite you to meditate on the depth and breadth of God’s love. Use this season as an opportunity to remember that God still loves you, and let that love transform the way you see the world.