My kids don’t watch a lot of television—practically none during school weeks, and rarely ever at night. But the other night, I sat down with my kids to watch the first episode of a new show about the Muppets. I told them that I hadn’t previewed it, so we were going to watch it together and just see what it was about. I was hoping for the best because 1) it’s the Muppets and 2) it was on at 7:00pm, not at a later, more “mature-audience” viewing hour. My youngest daughter looked at me and said, with confidence, “If it’s inappropriate, you will turn it off, right Mama?”
I had to smile at her pronunciation of the word “inappropriate” even as I nodded yes.
My children expect me to provide safe boundaries for them, not just in the realm of entertainment, but also just in general—where they can explore outside, when they should go to bed, what kinds of snacks they can eat, what apps they can play, how many times a day they should brush their teeth. I recognize that my role in smelling breath for the scent of toothpaste and mandating a fruit-only snack will fade all too quickly. Before long, my children will be old enough to make decisions apart from me and own up to the consequences, for good or for bad. In some ways, they must already take ownership over the development of their character, defining what type of person each one wants to be. But while they are still young and expectant that I am going to keep them in a safe zone, I am going to take the privilege seriously. I am going to do my best to expose them to an age-appropriate world, capable of being digested by innocent four- and seven-year-old minds. And as they learn more about the brokenness around them, I am going to show them how to process it in a way that empowers them to love and hope and help heal.
I think God is much the same way. He teaches us about Himself in the doses we can handle. He talks about young believers needing milk before moving on to the meat. He provides safe boundaries for us to enjoy, free to live as we please in the safety of His wisdom and provision. He knows best, and He instructs us accordingly. He is not afraid of what lies outside the boundary. He knows what is there. He has a plan to redeem and restore what happens in the god-forsaken land or as a result of our selfish rebellion against His best ways. Yet He provides us with safe spaces where we can be freely loved, known, and cherished. He shows us how to enter into dark places to shed light on the brokenness of the world, but He calls us to this as He leads, not as we will. He tells us that to obey is better than sacrifice (I Samuel 15:22). A sacrifice implies a wrongdoing for which one must seek atonement. In obedience, there is no longer a need for sacrifice because we are already doing what pleases God. The potential of encountering harm or engaging in sin gratefully diminishes when we walk in obedience and stay in the pasture with the Good Shepherd. His instructions, wisdom, provision, guidance—it is all for our good and for His glory. It is not because God wants to diminish or destroy us. God sets boundaries for us to follow out of His love for us. But He won’t twist our arm to force us to follow and obey just as He didn’t snatch the apple from Eve’s hand. While He knows we will not always keep with the fold, He also doesn’t have any fear about the evil that exists outside of Himself. He can handle all the sin and all the need for reconciliation. But God’s heart of love is that we wouldn’t be wounded and broken by our own sin in the first place, or wounded by the sinful in this broken world. His original design was for us to dwell with Him in the heart of Eden. And though our choices aren’t always perfect, God’s care is unchanging. Nothing has ever broken the power of God’s love for His creation.
Our heavenly Father wants us to trust Him, just like my little girl trusts me. Obedience is evidence of our trust. “Father, I’ll go on this adventure with you. You know what I can handle, right? Please keep me from temptation and deliver me from evil. I trust you. Thanks for not sending me out alone. Okay. Here’s my hand.”
Paul’s Letter to the Romans
Chapter 8:28, 31-35, 37-39
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.