I never understood what it meant to be a child of God until I had children of my own.
As a young adult, I thought of my relationship with God as a relationship between a Father and his adult
son: while I saw that God was deserving of my respect, I thought we were at a comparable intellectual
level. I assumed that we understood each other the same way my father and I understood each other.
I became a father in 2011 with the adoption of our firstborn, Sam. Over Sam’s first year I slowly realized
the arrogance of my assumption but at the same time, I came to treasure God’s Fatherly tenderness
more than anything else in all the world.
Consider Matthew 7.7-12. Jesus says,
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you, for
everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be
opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks
for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your
children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask
I thought that Jesus was teaching here that God answers prayer, and that’s true, this passage does teach
that God answers prayer but, what’s more important is that it teaches us how God answers prayer. God
answers prayer like a Father caring for his children. Jesus isn’t trying to teach us about prayer so much
as he is trying to teach us what God is like. God is like a Father. God is a Father. Our Father.
It's not a chore for a father to give his children the things they ask for and the things they need. It's not
burdensome; it's something a father delights to do. A father—a good father—doesn't delight in harming
his children; doesn't delight in withholding from his children. God is not an abusive father. And he's not
cold and distant and unapproachable either. God engages with His children, He wants to be known by
them, He cares for them. God is really tender towards us, like a father is toward his child.
Consider Romans 8.14-17. The Apostle Paul writes,
"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God, for you did not receive the spirit of
slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we
cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with
him in order that we may also be glorified with him."
When we became Christians we “did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear.” We did not
exchange our bondage to sin for a new kind of bondage but our bondage is gone entirely. We are
adopted into the family of God; we are His dear little children.
In Luke 11, Jesus' disciples ask him: “Teach us how to pray,” and Jesus says, “This is how you pray,” and
he begins with, “Our Father.” God doesn't think of this as just a metaphor. He actually is our Father and
He wants us to approach Him like He’s our Father. His heart is tender toward us. I never realized the tenderness of God's love for me until I became a father myself and I can't help thinking: If I love my son this much, how much must God love me?
The Apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit inside us causes us to cry out to our Father, “Abba!” or
“Papa!” That tells me what kind of relationship God wants: he wants me to put my arms up to Him and
cry out, “Papa!” Because, really, that's how much I need God: the same way a little child needs a father. God thinks of
me the same way I think of my daughter when she stretches out her arms for me to lift her up and says,
“Cue me, Papa.” And I fold her tiny little self into my arms and she puts her head against my chest and
she knows she's taken care of. What more could a father want from his child?
I really think that's all God wants from us: to just let Him be our Father; to let Him hold us and take care
of all our needs. He wants us to know that all we need is Him because if we have Him, we have
Consider 1 John 3.1-4. The Apostle John writes,
"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and
so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we
are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he
appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in
him purifies himself as he is pure."
See what kind of love the Father has for us? We are God's children, not by some mistake, not by
accident. But we were chosen, we were adopted. God chose to set His love on us and bring us into His
family, to make us His own.
So, what are we really like, as children of God? For most of my life I thought of myself as a grown-up
child of God. I thought I could understand my heavenly Father, I thought I was independent. Having my
own children reversed my thinking: I’m not like a grown-up, independent son who can move out of the
house and get a job and drive a car, no. In my experience as a child of God, I’m more like a wee baby or
It didn’t take me very long as a new father to learn that there's this kind of annoying quality about ba-
bies: Everything is a major emergency. One minute everything is fine and the baby is happy and then
suddenly the baby realizes he's hungry! And now we're in a major crisis situation, like, we've got to get
on the phone to FEMA and get the army here and maybe some helicopters and get some food into this
So, I start to get the bottle ready, and this whole process only takes about a minute, but it's a minute too
long for the baby who's behaving like the food's never going to come, he’s just wailing and screaming
and thrashing around, he’s behaving like I'm never going to give it to him—even though, here I am, get-
ting his food ready in plain sight—he's behaving like he’s in the depths of bitter despair because he real-
ly believes that I'm just going to let him starve to death, the poor thing! Even though, we’ve done this before, we’ve done it every single day of his life so far! He got hungry and he got fed. Sometimes he even got fed before he knew he was hungry. So, what’s with this complete lack of faith?
So, I see that I'm a lot like the baby. My faith in God goes about as far as the baby's faith in me. I know
I'm not going to let the baby starve to death—I'm not going to let anything bad happen to the baby if I
can help it. And what we just read is Jesus telling us that if we can take good care of our babies, how
much more can God take care of us?
But I still act like it's all up to me and I get bitter and upset when things don’t go the way I’ve planned or
I don’t get the things I want. So it kind of helps me to think of myself as the baby throwing a tantrum.
God's ready for me, he's got everything under control. And most of the time I just don't see it; I don't
trust that God cares and that what God has to give me is better than the things I want.
As a baby, Sam hated getting dressed. Getting him into a pair of pants was a real struggle. He'd scream
until his face turns red and he had these veins that popped out on the side of his head and he'd fight and
fight so that had to pin him to the floor with my legs. And he was a pretty strong baby. I had to wrestle
him into his pants, and into his shirt and his sweater. I’m his father; it didn’t please me that dressing was
such torture for him. I dressed him because I didn’t want him to be cold. He would go out into the snow
naked if I let him, and he’d freeze. But getting into his clothes would make him so mad, he’d scream and
thrash and fight. And it never ended well for him, you know, he never got his way. I never threw up my
hands and said, ‘OK, Sam. You go out and play in the snow naked.’ No, I was stronger than him, I out-
weighed him by about a hundred and sixty pounds, he never had a chance of winning against me but he
still tried with every ounce of his strength. You have to admire his courage, but he was a little stupid.
But I can see how I’m just like that, wrestling against God. I can't win, fighting against God, but I try any-
way. I hardly ever just surrender and say, ‘Okay, I trust you. You know best. I'll go with you on this.’ In-
stead I've got to try and do things my way, I've got to fight and fight to have things go just as I’ve
planned them, just as I want them to go and all the while I'm praying to God to let things go my way be-
cause I've got big plans, you know, and I'm going to do everything I can to make them work out. My
plans are that I'm going to get out of my clothes and go play naked in the snow, or run in traffic, play
chicken with the cars, torment the neighbourhood dogs until I find one that'll bite my face off, or else
just wander off and get lost. One of the reasons I think God gives us babies is so we'll see how foolish we
Jesus teaches us to pray, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, Your will
be done.’ Your will, not my will. I want God to help me with my plans? That's foolish. The Bible says that
I can't even imagine what God has planned, and he wants me to be a part of it. When I pray, “Your will
be done,” I’m submitting to God's will, I’m saying ‘Not my plans, your plans.’ I’m letting God use me in
I don't pray because I have to remind God to take care of me. When I pray, “Give us day by
day our daily bread,” I’m not reminding God that I need to be fed. God already knows. I think Jesus gave
us this prayer to remind us where our daily bread comes from. It comes from our Father. I don’t think
prayer is so much about getting things from God as it is about getting to know God.
At Matthew 6.25-34, Jesus says this:
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,
nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than
clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yetyour heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing?
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe
you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What
shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your
heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."
Here Jesus is teaching about God's tenderness. God is tender towards his Creation: He feeds the birds,
He makes the flowers beautiful. And Jesus says, ‘Your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of much
more value than they?’ He's saying, 'See how well your Father cares for the birds and the flowers? How
much more does He care for you?'
The flowers and the birds don't do any work, they don't do anything to provide for their future, they
don't store up food, or plant gardens, the lilies don't make themselves clothes, they don't manufacture
textiles. And yet both birds and lilies are remarkably beautiful because God made them this way. It's the
way they are. We don't value birds and flowers because of anything they can do for us, we value them
because of what they are. They show off God's great glory just by being what they are. Just by being.
Same with us: God does not value us because of anything that we can do. Is there anything we can do
that will impress God or make Him value us more? Is there anything we can do or fail to do that will
make God value us less? No. We're like babies; we can't even do anything for ourselves. Why do we be-
have like we can impress God with what we can do? God values us because we're His Children, not be-
cause of anything we do for Him.
I love being able to do things for my babies. It’s so satisfying to meet their needs. And when they just
trust me, like when they’re too tired to fight and they let me carry them and they just put their head on
my shoulder and hold me, nothing can make me a happier father. Sometimes, they just want to be with
me, they’ll want to snuggle, or to sit on my lap, or one of them will walk up unexpectedly and give me a
hug and a kiss. Nothing makes me happier than that, and I’m just so ridiculously pleased to be their father.
God gives us opportunity to show His glory by being His Children. Jesus teaches us that we should not
worry about material things because we have a Father in heaven who cares for us. And when we trust
Him and rely on Him and when we say, ‘Your will be done, not mine,’ we're showing the world that God
is real, that God is dependable, and that God is tender and kind. If we just let ourselves be God's little
children, God gets glory. And that's really what we're all about, glory to God.
The relationship we have with God is a familiar one. God is present, He cares for us, and He loves us. I
never understood how much God loves us until I saw God’s care as a Father in the verses we read and
realizing, this isn’t just theology, Jesus is talking about God’s Fatherly tenderness—as MY father, mine! I
used to think that it was right and good to approach God thinking poorly of myself and telling Him how
undeserving and worthless I am. But God, our Father, does not delight in pious self-abasement. He values us. If my son, Sam, came to me hanging his head and started telling me about how bad of a boy he is and how he doesn't deserve my love and how he's completely worthless to me and he doesn’t understand why I ever adopted him, I wouldn’t get any pleasure from that. That approach is no basis for a relationship. I love and value my son, and I want him to know me. I want him to know who I am and how much I love him. If he thinks he's too undeserving to be in my presence, he's never going to know me
and he's never going to enjoy my presence. And, really, that's all I want from him. My love and my esteem for my children is not conditional on anything they can do or accomplish, it's just that I love them, no matter what. God's love and God's esteem for His children is not conditional on anything they can do or accomplish, He just loves us, no matter what. We can't change His love for us.
I'm convinced that God wants me to know Him, wants me to be familiar with Him and to enjoy His presence. I should approach God with humility, yes, and confess my sins with the confidence that God already forgave my sins and that my sins are put away. I won’t earn favour by reminding God about my
sins. We approach God like children entering a father's presence. Hebrews 4.16 says, ‘Let us then with
confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time
of need .’ We can come boldly to the throne of grace because it is our Father’s throne and he delights in
giving us grace.
My Christian experience was a miserable one until I learned God’s Fatherly tenderness. I felt that God
disapproved of me—how could he approve of me, seeing as I am such a miserable sinner who can’t stop
sinning? I didn’t enjoy God’s presence because I thought of God as a stern, distant, disapproving, and
unapproachable parent. Before we’re saved, it is right to see God as unapproachable and stern because
we are His enemies. But, once saved, once born again, we’re born into God’s family and He is our
Father. And we know that He is a good Father, a tender Father, a kind Father, a Father who loves His
children tremendously. I never enjoyed God until I saw Him as my Heavenly Father. His presence isn’t
fearful but enjoyable because I know that He loves me, He cares for me. His heart is tender towards me. I know that I can trust Him.