It's no secret that one of my favourite things about parenting my own children is the chance that I get to see, in the tiniest way, a sliver of God's perspective as He loves His exasperating children - as He loves His exasperating me.
When my kids are disobedient, ungrateful, forgetful little punks, and I love them anyway and keep on caring for them even when exhaustion is straining at the seams, I am reminded to look up into the face of my Father and see Him smile knowingly as I finally understand the lesson.
When they cry in the night and need me and my feet have wings as I run to their room to take care of them, my heart curls in close to the Indwelling Spirit, who never leaves me, never forsakes me.
When they need to be fed, bathed, changed, held - are utterly helpless but for my care - I bow and acknowledge that I, too, can do nothing on my own and need saving.
Usually, looking at my kids reminds me to look to God, to praise Him for His tender care.
A few weeks ago our pastor was preaching on repentance, and he shared a quotation that took my breath with its loveliness.
The only way to flee from the wrath of God is to turn and run right into His loving arms.
And it made me pause and consider how I behave when I discipline my kids. I can't exactly say they always find my heart their safe harbour. I encourage them to apologize, and I forgive them, yes (sometimes with less enthusiasm than others!) - but I have caught glimpses of my still-upset face in the mirror even after the apology and it is not a comforting sight.
Their punishment must spur them to repentance, and then it should not be scary or intimidating for them to repent. The struggle against their own desire is hard enough; I don't want my stern eyebrows or ranty words to bear heavily on them. No - I want them to find no greater shelter than my own arms, my own heart, like I find in my Father. I want them to find, as I do, that the brief sorrow of repentance leads to the great relief of forgiveness, and the joy of oneness restored.
Because maybe ... maybe in the same way that God uses them to point me to His heart, maybe He will use me to point them to His heart too.
And they will be captivated by its beauty.
And they will ache over their sin.
And they will tremble over God's just wrath.
And they will repent.
And they will flee
straight into His wide-open arms.
And walk in the warmth of His presence forever.