For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?  Indeed, you are our glory and joy.—1 Thessalonians 2:19,20

 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!—Matthew 7:11

He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.—Zephaniah 3:17

I love my kids.  And I’m proud of my kids.  This past week Bailey had a dance recital, and she danced beautifully.  She’s incredibly graceful, and she didn’t get it from me.  Then Caleb had a baseball game where he pitched half the game and had a big hit that rolled all the way to the fence.  Swim season has started, and while all three of them are swimming this year, we all know Claire is the one who really loves it.  It was her birthday this week, and we gave her the option of skipping practice that day.  She looked at us like we were crazy.  “Why would I want to skip swimming?” she asked.  She loves it, and she’s good at it, and I’m a proud dad who’s happy to spend my summer mornings getting my swimmers to the pool on time.

Just in case you skimmed over them, take a moment to really read the above passages of scripture.  In 1 Thessalonians, Paul tells these young believers that they are what he will be proud of when he stands before Christ someday.  He tells them that they are his glory and his joy.  Wouldn’t we all love to have someone say to us “you are my glory and my joy”?  Then in Matthew, Jesus reminds his disciples that of course God is a much better father than the best human fathers.  And the prophet Zephaniah paints a picture of a God who delights in His people, rejoicing over them with song.

Is this your picture of God?  A loving father who rejoices over you, wants what’s best for you, and is even proud of you?  My recent experiences as a proud dad have given me a chance to reflect on what the Father’s love for us might look like.  Assuming that God is a better dad than I am, let me offer some thoughts on how I feel about my kids, and what that might mean for us in our daily walk with God.

First, as I watch my children, their joy is my joy.  I love to watch them do what they were made to do, and when they do something well, something that brings them happiness or fulfillment, my heart is full.  When Caleb gets a big hit and is safely on base, he looks to the stands with a huge smile on his face, wanting to make sure Carey and I saw what he did.  And there we are, smiling back.  I love to watch my children thrive.  In the same way, your heavenly Father wants to see you doing what you were made to do, doing it with joy, and deeply enjoying the life He has given you.  He wants to see you fulfilled and thriving.  It truly brings Him joy.  Some people grow up with the wrong picture of God based on bad teaching or bad experiences, and they think of Him as constantly disappointed and frowning.  If that’s you, get rid of that picture.  Know that God is rooting for you and proud of you.

Next, when my children are hurting, I share their pain.  When someone else’s kid gets a minor injury out on the field, I say “Oh, that’s too bad,” and then wait for them to recover so the game can continue.  But when it’s my kid, I want to rush out and scoop them up and make everything okay.  Last year when Bailey hurt her knee and missed some of the dance season, if there was a way I could have taken that injury on myself so she could be free of it, I would have done it.  It breaks my heart when my children are suffering or discouraged, and when they hurt, I hurt.  In the same way, your heavenly father is not indifferent to your suffering.  He hurts with you, and He is right there with you in your pain.  On the cross, Jesus took suffering and death upon Himself to spare you from it.  He loves you and He cares deeply about what you’re going through.

Then there’s the fact that because I love my children, I don’t expect perfection.  The truth is that I’m biased when it comes to my kids, and I tend to focus on the good things and overlook their mistakes.  When someone loses a race or takes a false step, I don’t dwell on it, because I am for them, not against them, and I want them to be encouraged.  When we’re walking away from the game, we’re talking about the big hits, not the bobbled grounders.  I don’t need my kids to be flawless to be proud of them.  I love to see their growth and progress, but I expect them to make mistakes along the way, and it doesn’t diminish my love one little bit.  Do you know that God doesn’t expect you to be perfect, and that He still loves you when you stumble?  He still smiles on you; He’s still rooting for you.  He knows you’ll make mistakes, and He doesn’t love you any less when it happens.

Related to that is the fact that I’m not comparing them to anyone else.  This is a big one.  I don’t kid myself that my children are the best athletes out there.  Objectively, I know they’re not.  And I don’t care.  Not a bit.  I’m aware that other kids are faster, stronger, more talented, whatever, and that doesn’t change my love for my children at all.  My love is not something they have to compete for; I have a love for each of them that belongs to them and no one else.  They don’t have to worry that I’m secretly wishing they were more like so-and-so.  They are my favorites, simply because they are mine.  In the same way, do you know that your heavenly Father has a unique love for you, that doesn’t compare you to anyone else, and that no one can take away?

If you are a child of God, doing your best to please Him, then please believe this today: God is proud of you.  He really is.  He is rooting for you, happy for you, and even hurting for you as you struggle through the challenges of this life.  He loves you.  You bring a smile to His face.  You are His glory and His joy.  And nothing will ever change that, because you belong to Him, and He’s truly glad that you are His.

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