And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children… Malachi 4:6 (KJV)
I was with a small gathering with friends when someone shared a story about her young grandson. He was playing ice hockey when another player ran into him and broke his leg. The little guy was patched up and spent the remainder of the day in bed with a cast.
Some days later, his teacher asked the class to tell about the best day of their lives. When it came time for this youngster to share, he said, “It was the day I broke my leg.” The teacher interrupted, saying, “You didn’t understand. I asked you to tell about the best day of your life.” Again, the little fellow said, “It was the day I broke my leg. That was the day my daddy spent the whole day with me.”
To this day, the father cannot tell the story without tearing up. He says it was a wakeup call. He had been leaving the house at 5:00 in the morning and coming home when it was dark. His children hadn’t needed all the things he provided; they needed him.
How many of us can think of the times or events with our children that we could have handled differently? Of the goals we’ve wanted to reach, thinking those would benefit our children most when all the time they’ve just wanted to be with us, to be loved by us.
Children tend to create the image of their heavenly Father based on what they know of their earthly father. In all our learning, we move from the concrete to the abstract, and it’s so spiritually. We learn unconditional love from our earthly father; we observe his character traits and assign those to our heavenly Father; we believe that our heavenly Father accepts us in the same measure as our earthly father. All the traits, temperaments, dispositions, characteristics, and values that we see demonstrated by our earthly father we transfer to our heavenly Father. True or not.
It’s no wonder that our children sometimes have trouble relating to God as one who has pursued them with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3), who will never leave nor forsake them (Deut. 31:6), who always keeps his promises (Josh. 21:45), and who has good plans for them (Jer. 29:11). But there’s no need to despair. As long as we’re alive, there’s still time to love and to heal.
So what if we weren’t the perfect parent in the past? Who was? As we grow, we learn, and we can repent of the mistakes of the past. Can you imagine the wonder of a grown child whose parent asks his forgiveness? God had given us the marvelous promise to restore the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25), and we can claim that as we reach out in faith to our children. With our cooperation, he can heal the wounds we’ve inflicted and turn their hearts to him and to us.
Thank you, Father, for showing us your love through Jesus Christ. Make us into the parents and grandparents you’d have us to be; help us to receive your unconditional love and to lavish it on our children and grandchildren. Forgive us our sins; give us courage to repent; and bring healing to our children and our families. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.