Once upon a time there was. . . .
But the story begins before that.
Once upon a time there wasn’t. There wasn’t a world. There wasn’t a sun or a moon or stars. But there was a Father. And he had a dream. Can you see him, smiling with delight? That twinkle in his eye is you. And that twinkle is excitement, too, as he waits to share with you the surprise he’s been planning.
He brings you to birth and watches you grow. You learn to walk holding his hand, find your voice through mimicking his. You learn your worth looking into his face – except that your attention wanders and so do you and you find yourself looking into many other faces. Those faces, clouded as they are, don’t rightly reflect your value back to you. How quickly you forget. You forget who your Father is and so you forget who you are. But your Father hasn’t forgotten. And he is still dreaming of the day he’ll show you. . .
Look. I know you’re stiff and worn and too tired, really, to concentrate. Your eyes are cloudy and your lids half closed, but look anyway, as best you can. Let him take you by the shoulders and turn you to face him again. It may be with time that the brightness of his pleasure in you will wear through the layers of shame and you’ll be able to see truly.
Listen. Let your half deaf ears strain for his voice over the noise in your own head. His voice has a way of cutting, quiet but razor-sharp, through the din, tuning your ears to truth.
That dream of his? It begins to spill out in his promise to another father:
“The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you. . . . I will raise up your offspring to succeed you. . . and I will establish his kingdom. . . . I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him. . . .” (2 Samuel 7:11-16)
It’s all right there, all the key bits of being a child of this Father. Love that will never be taken away. (Read those seven words again.) Love committed enough to his child’s well-being that He will discipline – but always within a love so secure that the possibility of rejection need not cause fear. And inheritance. The Father will build a kingdom for the child he loves.
That’s part of the secret He’s been planning since once upon a time when time wasn’t. This kingdom of God that He’s building around us and in us and far beyond us? The magnificent show of his glorious love that we think He’s building for Himself, for His own glory? (Shhhhh. Lean in and I’ll whisper the not-very-secret secret. He’s building it for you!)
He’ll speak the secret loud on that day when those who’ve loved him are separated from those who haven’t:
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)
Go back and read it again, more slowly, if you missed it. Your inheritance. The Kingdom. Prepared for you. Long before your birth.
He means this extravagant Father-love to comfort us now:
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
He sees us weighted with worries about what to wear to work and when we’ll pack tomorrow’s lunch and how we’ll make ends meet (Luke 12:22-34), and he can’t wait until the end of time to spill the secret. This love that gives us his Son gives us his kingdom (Rom 8:32). This love that gives us his kingdom. . . well, do we really think it won’t put food on the table and gives us clothes to cover our nakedness? He speaks the secret now, right out clear. But we’re so distracted we scarcely hear. If we’d heard, truly heard, we would have stopped, shocked, turned slowly to face him, shoes and lunches and bills forgotten. “What?! The kingdom? What do you mean the kingdom is for me?”
I think he’d answer with that same smile and twinkle that reach the parts of our hearts where words seldom settle.
“I love you, my child.”