Father’s Day this year was special. I had the great opportunity to co-teach with my wonderful wife Julie at Mercy Road Church in Carmel, Indiana. I got to spend the afternoon watching my boys play baseball. I got to spend the evening watching Game 7 of the NBA Finals with my three sons and my Dad. It was a good day!
But, it was a conversation with my five-year-old Knox, that really stands out. As we walked through the mall parking lot he looked up into my eyes and said, “Daddy, are you proud of me?”. I was caught off guard. I mean, we are just walking through the parking lot. We had just finished eating at Qdoba as a celebration dinner for the end of Knox’s baseball season. This is not exactly the moment you imagine would be filled with deep meaningful questions.
I looked down at Knox and said, “Absolutely buddy! I’m so proud of you. You’re my boy and I love you!” As we walked, I began to ponder why he was asking this deep of a question, in this moment. It is a very deep question, right? Are the people we love and care for the most proud of us? The answer to this question sets the foundation to almost every emotion we process. Is someone proud of us?
This question must always be firmly and truthfully answered for our kids. They must know that we are proud of them for WHO THEY ARE, well before what they do. Every child should know that their parents are proud of them because of who they are before what they do. If we don’t get this one right, our kids will live their entire lives with the pressure of “performance based” acceptance. This performance trap will produce anxiety, insecurity and a difficulty to give and receive love.
I’ve learned this lesson through my relationship with my Heavenly Father. For years, I believed that God was only proud of me when I performed perfectly. If I obeyed, then God was proud of me. If I sinned or didn’t live up to my potential, He was disappointed or worse yet, angry with me. This incorrect perspective on my part, lead to a very insecure relationship with my Heavenly Father. My life basically became a constant game of “He loves me, He loves me not”. Not fun, not peaceful, not loving.
I have come to know the pride of my Heavenly Father. He is proud of me because of who I am, not what I do. I have let go of the shackles of religious performance. I am walking in the proud affection of my Father. This is how Jesus must have felt!
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:14-17 NIV
What great things had Jesus done to this point? Nothing.
He hadn’t done any miracles yet. He hadn’t healed anyone. There weren’t any 5,000 person picnics yet. To this point in his life, Jesus had just been Jesus, a son. We can’t forget that Jesus was fully human. It is so important to notice that his Father made sure he knew his love, pride, and approval did not proceed from Jesus performance. The Father’s approval was based on Jesus’ Identity as a son.
God’s approval and affection for you do not flow out of your performance for Him.
The next morning, I was reflecting again on Knox’s question and it hit me. At his last baseball game Knox had a few families and some great neighborhood kids, he looks up to, comes watch him play. Maybe for the first time in his life, he felt the enormous pressure to perform. Everyone was watching and SO WAS HIS DAD!
Did he play well enough for his Dad to be proud? When his Dad watched him in front of all these folks was he enough? Those are big questions for a 5-year-old. Those are big questions for a 38-year-old.
When I realized this was the context of his question I looked Knox straight in his eyes and spoke this truth into his soul. “Knox, I think you played great baseball yesterday. But, I want you to know I am proud of you because your my son and I love you. I’m proud of you weather you strike out or hit a double. My love for you is not based on your performance.”I don’t know if he really understood all of that, but I hope it sank in somewhere deep.
He needs to know that truth because we all do. I need to remind myself every day that God’s affection and approval of me is not based on my religious performance for Him. He loves me and is proud of me because I am his Child. Nothing more, nothing less.
Here’s something to ponder: Are you a child of God? When you think of God’s emotions towards you do you think He feels proud of you? If you believed He was proud of you every day, what difference would it make?
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