Unconditional love. That is what I pledged to our son when he was born, probably even before that. It was pretty cemented when he first popped open his eyes and looked at me. That was a "heart-melting experience" if ever there was one. I pray that Evan will lead a good life full of love and compassion for others and that he will grow into a truly Godly man. But, regardless, my love for him will remain ... unchanged ... unconditional ... forever.
There are times when you feel your love for your child more intensly than others though. I guess I don't know about other parents but I suspect that I'm not the only one who feels that love most when Evan comes to me and apologizes for something he's done. We have been blessed with a child who generally is well-behaved. He doesn't do real dumb things very often so I don't hear "I'm sorry, Dad" very often but, on the occasions when I do hear it, my heart melts. Seeing him in a state of brokenness pulls up emotions that defy description. I can even be seething with anger (beneath the surface, of course -- I wish!), and those words, "I'm sorry, Dad" make me want to just wrap him in my arms, and in my love, like I never have before. I accept his apology, tell him that I love him, and that things are okay.
It's a wonderful thought that God feels that same intensity of love for us -- even greater, in fact. Just as the father celebrated when he welcomed home his son who had strayed, I think that the emotion of God's love for us must be at an indescribable peak when we come to him in our state of brokenness.
When we're children apologizing to our parents, it's easy to just melt into their love when it is extended to us. We feel forgiven, we know we're forgiven, and, afterward, we go forward, confident that our parents have forgiven us and still love us ... unconditionally.
Somewhere between being a child going to our earthly parents in that act of contrition and being an adult going to our Heavenly Father seeking His forgiveness, though, things often change. Whether it's pride, cynicism, or low self-esteem, it can be very hard for us to believe that God really forgives us and still loves us. Maybe it's cynicism in ourselves. Maybe we know that we will mess up again and it just makes no sense to us how God could forgive us and love us when we both know that there will be other times when we will fall short of what He calls us to. Or maybe our pride keeps us from really entering a true state of brokenness. I don't know. We may even keep praying for forgiveness for the same thing. Or we may ask for forgiveness but not really grasp in our heart and mind that His grace really is that simple -- it's ours just for asking. But, unlike our childhood acceptance of our parents' foregiveness, we somehow find it really hard to truly grasp God's forgiveness.
How that stunts our spiritual journey, though, when we live a life of not letting ourselves know the reality of God's love! It would be like never really feeling that you're worthy of your earthly parents' love. There are dysfunctional families when that happens and adult children of those families really have to work at recovering from that state.
But God promises us His love and His forgiveness, allowing and encouraging us to lead full and authentic lives of devotion to Him. How awesome is that, if we can just truly accept what he so freely gives?