The other morning I was snuggling in my bed with BabyThing and ThingFive. I love that about lazy summer mornings — BabyThing squeezed up under my left arm, ThingFive with his head nestled on my right shoulder, his arm hugging tightly around my waist. On mornings like that, I just want to freeze time.
As we lay there, conversation drifted to which child is my favorite. Now, I’ve already told you about how I break all the parenting rules and pick favorites. So BabyThing was explaining to ThingFive how he is the favorite because he’s the baby and he gives me lots of hugs and kisses and loves me most. ThingFive had refused to give me kisses, so I was teasing him that he was dropping down the list. We were giggling. ThingFive loudly kissed my cheek to earn his way back up to the top of the favorite list. We giggled some more.
But then these two little snuggle-puppies decided to start ranking all the children in order from most favorite to least favorite. Quickly, their criteria for favorite became clear. The children who obey the best and make the least amount of waves were at the top. ThingOne, with her teenage struggle for more independence, was near the bottom. ThingFour, who has had a difficult summer off the medication that helps with his Tourette Syndrome and ADHD issues, ranked at the very bottom of their favorite list.
It was a sweet opportunity for me to explain to them that they don’t really earn my favor by being obedient and quiet and calm and good. I don’t love them more when they are subdued and compliant. But it wasn’t a surprise that their list panned out the way it did. It’s natural to assume that the kids who cause the least amount of trouble and work would be the favorites, that the ones who follow the rules and smile the most would work their way to the top of the list.
Isn’t that how we often view our standing with God? We tend to believe that if we read our Bible and pray often and obey the commandments and teach Sunday School and go to church every time the doors are open then we earn our way to the top of God’s favorite list. We’d probably never say it out loud; but somewhere deep inside us, we have this idea that God secretly does have favorites. And if we skip quiet time too many mornings or scream at our children when they drive us nuts or skip church to sleep in, we slip down the list.
But let me remind you, as I reminded my children, the favorite list doesn’t work that way. Even though I want each of my children to feel like a favorite, special and uniquely loved, there really is no favorite list. I madly, deeply, extravagantly love each of my children because they are my children. Because they are mine. Even when ThingFour is having a seriously explosive meltdown and crying and screaming and losing all self-control, I love him with a gripping, protective love that is just as strong and crazy as his screams.
And that is how God feels about us. About you. About me. When we are obeying and sweet and smiling and acting very Christian. And when we are stomping our little spiritual foot down and our soul is crying But I want to do what I want to do! I’m doing things MY way! God loves us with a gripping, protective, deep, crazy love. Because we are His.
We don’t earn His favor. God loves us and blesses us and favors us because of Jesus and what He has already done. When God looks at me, He sees Jesus because I am hidden in Jesus. (Ephesians 1:4, Colossians 1:22) I couldn’t earn my salvation, and I can’t earn blessings or favor or extra points now that I belong to Him. Galatians 3:3 asks if I really am so foolish to think that after beginning with the Spirit, would I really now try to attain my goal by human effort.
Yes, I really am that foolish sometimes. I forget that God loves me just as much as He loves Jesus (John 17:23) because I am now in Christ, part of His very own body. And this position and love do not change depending on whether or not I’m having a good day.
What a sweet relief! I don’t have to work my way up some impossible favorite list with God. I’m already at the top, hidden in the Most Favored One. I can rest. My soul can rest. I am loved because I am His.
And BabyThing and ThingFive can rest, knowing they are loved because they are mine – even when they won’t give me kisses.
Andrew Peterson, one of my favorite singer/songwriters, has recently released a song that resonates with my soul. It’s a good reminder that we can Rest Easy because we don’t have to prove anything or earn anything.