The love that’s about more than “have to”

photo by Marny Watts

Dear Dad,

I’ve been reading a book. It talks about God’s love as a self-giving love, a spontaneous, “uncaused” love that is totally separate from any hint of desire or delight in his creatures. The book holds some truth. But you know, taken all together, it doesn’t convince me.

And you’re part of the reason it doesn’t.

photo by Marny Watts
photo by Marny Watts
photo by Marny Watts

Remember all the times you came home from work and romped with us in the basement? Or swam the length of our lake with me, you pushing the littler ones in the dinghy? Or the times I started a song on my viola and you dropped what you were doing and came down the stairs to pick up your clarinet?

Remember the year just after I returned from Afghanistan when, morning after morning, you walked with me in the park, stopping for me to savour the sunrise or the dew on the morning flowers, enjoying my enjoyment of the fresh beauty for which I was starved? And that morning that I turned around from whatever I had been photographing to see you, in the dim of the dawn, trying to keep a straight face behind the old man’s beard you had borrowed from a nearby tree? How you made me laugh!

You’ve spoken much wisdom in the almost four decades you’ve been a father, but these words that I’ve heard again and again are among my favorites: “Ooohhh, kids are fun!

I knew you loved me because you bought the viola and paid for the lessons and tutored me through physics and calculus. I knew you loved me because you welcomed me home again when I was sick and wouldn’t let me pay rent. But all that could have been just the “have to” kind of love, the kind that is really more about being a responsible father and doing what is right than about. . . well, actually loving me. Actually loving me.

But when you played and laughed and listened and enjoyed me, enjoyed being with me, then I knew you really loved me. Then I knew that your sacrifices weren’t just about “have to” but about “want to.”

Thanks, Dad, for being a picture of God’s love, the kind that gives everything, but that does so in the context of deep delight in His children.

I love you! And I’m so glad you’re my Dad!

“Let Israel rejoice in their Maker. . . .

For the LORD delights in his people. . . .” (Ps 149:2,4)

Related posts:

When you wonder if God is holding out on you

You’re not who you think you are

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