There is something I often have to catch myself at as we raise two children: they are individuals, not just a group of kids. It sounds simple enough to remember, but often times I think of them as one thing, one task to manage, love, raise, and teach. Rather, they are individuals, each with their own unique personalities and traits, each desiring to be loved and shown affection in their own, personal way. There are so very many things that are specific to each of my children and these things come out already in their young lives. The oldest child thrives on quality time – spend twenty minutes with her – and her alone – playing whatever game she chooses and she’s your best bud for life. The youngest one grunts when something doesn’t go her way, or when she wants more and you aren’t feeding her fast enough. Rather than crying (more often than not), she prefers to grunt.
Then come the moments when they don’t play nicely together. The oldest child pushes her younger sister and she falls backward, hitting her head on the floor. Do I suddenly hate my oldest daughter? Of course not, but I am disappointed in the way she treats her sister from time to time.
All of this makes me grateful that I’m not God. Again, an obvious statement, but He never loses us in the sea of faces of all of His children. We are uniquely personal to Him, so personal, in fact, that He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows just how to send us a gift of love in the way we’ll receive it best, be it a rainbow, a thunderstorm, or a simple hug from another. He knows how we prefer to communicate and sees each of our individual qualities.
Sometimes when my children don’t get along it is easy to snap at one of them or to expect more from my oldest child. How many times have I told her not to push her sister? Not to take toys away from her sister? In the moments when I hear one of my children crying it is all too easy to be angry or upset at the other child for causing some hardship to the other.
That isn’t how God is.
He hears us crying out. He sees the immense pain we cause each other. And yet knowing the pain we cause each other, He doesn’t love any of His children any less. It is truly one of God’s most unfathomable qualities. He sees a shooter in a hotel room raining down gunfire on concert goers and loves him just as much as He loves you and me. He sees so much more than we see. I look at my children and think that sometimes the oldest girl can be selfish in the ways she takes away toys from her younger sister. God looks at them – whoever they are – and sees their hearts, their hurt, their pain, their desire for attention. He sees, unlike I do, the whole picture. My initial reactions are of fear, anger, hurt, or a burning desire for justice. God sees the heart, the uniquely individual qualities of each of us – even those of us (and we all do this) inflicting pain on others – and He responds in mercy, in love, and in patience. Is He saddened at how we treat each other? Does He desire more for us? How many times has He told us not to push each other, kill each other, and to be kind? And yet despite the manifold directives and guidances to be better, to be perfect just as He is perfect, He still responds with love. He doesn’t rain down fire or fill the earth with rain so as to drown us all. Instead He offers us confession – a place to encounter Him, to humble ourselves and receive mercy.
I don’t know how He does it, how He can keep all of us so personally connected to Himself. We aren’t merely a face in His crowd, we are the only crowd He sees in any given moment. He hears our cries and comes to us when we call, and He comes with His presence, which is love and mercy itself.