Meet Elizabeth Spencer my guest blogger today. I love the real and encouraging way Elizabeth writes. Elizabeth is a mentor mom over at MOMS Together. If you want to know more about MOMS Together click here for the main page and here to join the Moms Together group You can also find out more abut Elizabeth by reading her bio at the end of this inspirational article. You will love her. Promise!
With faith, hope, and love,
How My Children Showed Me Why God Doesn’t Force Us To Love Him by Elizabeth Spencer
My daughter asked to take this picture with me.
“I don’t have any pictures with you in them,” she told me sternly. “I want one today.”
And then the other night, when I tucked her into bed (which, okay, involves me standing at the foot of her bed while she pulls up the covers), she sighed happily and said, “I love our family.”
We weren’t having a conversation about our family. We weren’t having a conversation about anything, actually. I was just telling her good night. She said this wonderful thing out of the blue.
“I’m so glad,” I told her. “But what makes you say that now?”
She said, “I don’t know…I just love it when we’re all together.”
I read a post a few days ago that said there’s no love like the kind of love your children have for you when they’re little.
And I agree: the love our kids have for us when they’re small is unmatched and exuberant. Our babies and toddlers and preschoolers and pre-pre teens give it to us freely, without having to think about it. Their fierce hugs and sticky kisses belong to a precious season of parenting that does not last forever. Soak it up and store it up, parents of littles: that kind of love is a precious treasure.
But there is also no love like the love our kids have for us when they’re older. Because this kind of love is a choice.
- It is on-purpose love.
- It is love by decision, rather than by (delicious, delightful) default.
- It is love of intention.
Sometimes, of course, our big kids break our hearts by choosing to withhold their love (or the expression of it, anyway). I know so many parents of teens and young adults have gut-wrenching stories of love that is decided against, at least temporarily or by outward appearances. My heart breaks for them and goes out to them.
But when my high school drum line girl comes up to me after the marching band show at a football game and gives me a hug in front of all her bandmates…
When my college student sends me a text just to tell me she loves me…
When we’re finishing up family movie night and my 14-year-old points to the space next to her on the couch and beckons me to it…
And when my 18-year-old attaches these words to her post of the picture she wanted to take with me: “If I didn’t have you as a mom, I would choose you as a friend”…
When my children decide to do these things that they don’t have to do, I feel loved by them in a way that has no match.
Our little people love us without restraint or reservation, out of innocent, unguarded hearts. And that’s part of what makes their love for us so worth celebrating and cherishing. We don’t have to do anything to earn it or deserve it or merit it. It is pure grace.
When our older kids choose to love us and choose to show it, they give us an infinitely valuable and powerful gift. There’s nothing like it. It is a glorious kind of grace all its own.
And… this is where my children helped me understand in a new way something I’d never fully grasped before: why God gives us free will. Why God gives us the choice of whether or not to love Him when He knows so many of us will choose to not.
I’d realized the reason for this with my mind in the past: God does not want robots. He wants real love. My children helped me understand—with my heart–why He wants that kind of love and what it looks like.
God wants us to love Him because we want to, not because we have to. He wants us to want to seek out relationship with Him, to pursue fellowship with Him, to initiate interaction with Him.
God tells us in His Word that we must first come to Him as little children, with simple, unquestioning, no-holds-barred faith. “‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it’” (Mark 10:14, 15 NIV).
Then God wants us to grow up in Him, to mature in our faith and love. “We will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him Who is the Head, that, is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:14, 15 NIV).
I’m grateful my older children showed me what this kind of mature, intentional love looks like.
They showed me God wants us to:
- Be unashamed to show our love for Him in front of the crowd.
- Communicate with Him “just because.”
- Make space for Him in the intimate places of our lives.
- Call Him both Abba and friend.
And they showed me that when we do these 4 things, we find the most glorious kind of grace of all.
Elizabeth Spencer is a great sinner redeemed by a great Savior. She’s been married for 23 years to an exceedingly patient husband and is mom to two teenage daughters who make her look really good as a mother. She blogs at Guilty Chocoholic Mama and, if pressed to demonstrate a hidden talent, can stand on her head. www.guiltychocoholicmama.blogspot.com
© LoriWildenberg. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13 Parenting.com. She has written 6 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home; The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections; and her most recent book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. Contact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.
I love the way you’ve related your daughters’ love for you to our free-will choice to love God! How blessed you are to have such wonderful relationships with your girls!! And I’m encouraged to be more intentional about expressing my love to God, in the same way I enjoy receiving intentional love from my children.
Being a parent sure gives us a glimpse into our relationship with the Lord.Thanks for your comment.
Thank you so much, my fellow mom-of-teen-daughters! I’m so grateful to God for using my children to teach me truths about Himself. And I’m so happy for you and the relationship I know you’re forging with your sweet ones! Thanks you for taking time to read this and to leave your always-encouraging feedback!
Ooooh! I’m so excited to see that you took this further and turned it into a blog post! Love, love, love it (which you already know!) <3
I’m glad too! Thanks for your comment, Lisa
Oh sweet Lisa, I feel as thought I should have shared the byline with you, because your comment on my original post inspired this expanded version. Thanks and love and hugs to you, my darling friend!
Love this, Elizabeth! All four of your take home points touched my heart. What a lovely post.
Tiffiney, thank you so much sweet friend. Thank you for “getting” my mom heart here.
Hi Elizabeth. I read this post days ago, and it’s still on my mind. I realized I never left a comment! My children are a little younger, and I hope and pray that they will choose me as a friend someday. Your post encourages me…thank you!