Because I know myself well, and my family knows me well, I know that I am not a good husband, and I am not a good father. In fact, I am a broken person like everyone in this world. The days are few that I could say I barely manage to put other people’s interests above my own. But I guess tonight something very small happened that must have been a grace of God to teach me a lesson.
As an Asian parent, I tend to overlook my children’s achievements, and naturally demand more from them. Well what happened earlier tonight was that Chase (6 years) was playing with River (3.5 years) and Snow (2 years) and they were dancing to music and got very excited. Accidentally, Chase pushed River a little too hard and River was sent flying backwards and hit the back of his head against the edge of a cupboard. It was a low impact hit, but everyone was shocked and paused a couple of seconds. Then River started weeping, probably more out of shock than of pain. I looked at Chase, and he was shocked too. His face told me that he knew he was sorry and responsible. But he just froze and stood there looking at River. Snow actually already ran over to River and was hugging him (even 2-year-old girls have a way of proactively expressing her feelings that just aren’t the same with boys). I also went over and started rubbing River’s head. And then I told Chase, “Chase, come over here and see if River is okay.” Chase walked just a step closer (but he was still about 5 feet away), sat down, and said in a very quiet voice, “Sorry, River.”
At that point, I got a bit agitated. I had told Chase to get closer and see how River was doing, but he didn’t even “obey” me to get close to River. So I stood up and said, this time in a louder voice, “Chase! Go over and rub the back of River’s head and show him you care!” Then Chase got annoyed, “I already said I was sorry!” I repeated what I said again. And Chase countered again, “River pushed me also! I didn’t do anything wrong… (blah) (blah)” plus a bunch of words that I couldn’t remember, but basically they came out of Chase’s defense mechanism to try to explain that the situation wasn’t fair and he basically didn’t do anything wrong.
That did it for me. I yelled “Chase, get over here!” I reached out and grabbed Chase’s shirt to pull him in — and just then I realized I shouldn’t get physical, so I immediately let go. But that little mistake of a grabbing motion that I did made Chase really angry. He started to throw a fit, and then I said, “You said you love Jesus, but why do you not even love your brother? You have to love River, you know that?”
At that point, I took a good look at Chase. He was sitting down, crossing his arms, and flattening his lips, and put on a sullen face. He was avoiding my gaze, and kept looking down at the floor. Teardrops were at the brim of his eyes. And then I thought, “What did I just say? Did that even make sense? How could I actually force someone to love another person?”
And then it hit me. Or I think it was God who hit me on the head, because it was definitely unnatural for me to think this thought — I realized that Chase wanted to make excuses and make it look fair because Chase needed to be loved too, and he was trying to earn my love. But he was met with disappointment. Right there I realized that Chase was actually already remorseful, and he wanted to be a good brother, but I didn’t see it as “good enough,” and so he had to try to earn my love.
I have to admit that there are times in my life that I served God to earn God’s love. In those times, I felt I had to do more, do faster, do “bigger” things, do better than other people, and do it to show other people. And what misery that was. I ended up pushing other people away because I wanted to do it all by myself so I could claim all the glory of my achievements and my efforts. Yet I felt more miserable and more guilt-ridden, I got more self-centered and ego-centric, and I got burnt out easily. All of that to earn God’s love, even when God has already loved me. And as I sat there next to Chase, I suddenly remembered all of that foolishness of trying to earn God’s love and related all that to this situation.
So I calmed down, and then said to Chase, “Chase, I know you have already tried hard to love River. Were you trying to do that so that I could love you?” He turned and looked at me. I called out to Snow, “Snow, come over here.” And then I asked Chase, “Is it okay if Snow hugs you?” Chase nodded. And Snow put her arms around Chase with a big hug. Then I told Chase, “Snow loves you, River loves you, and I love you. And God loves you too. You don’t have to earn my love. I’ve already loved you. Can I hug you too?” He said yes, broke out a cheerful smile, and we all had a great big group hug.
There’s no need to earn it. Be assured that God has already loved you from the very beginning. His love is bigger than we can imagine.