It is normal to think of our children. We worry about them. We celebrate and sometimes share their successes. And perhaps even to a greater degree, we suffer and endure their challenges and failures. In raising four kids, even though they are all adults now, it is still true for me.
As I was driving the other day however, it struck me that in many respects, this love I have for my children, the worry over their challenges and the desires I have to see them happy, is not so different than that of God the Father.
I recall the story told in my childhood Sunday school class of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai and coming down the mountain to share them with the Israelites. I even remember the pictures depicting Moses coming down from the mountain and seeing the Israelites dancing around a golden calf idol. Exodus 30:19 tells us that “Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets (with the Ten Commandments on them) from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.”
As I think of this story now, I wonder if God was disappointed Moses behaved in this way. I imagine God talking to Moses before he comes down the mountain and throws the tablets. God may have said, “Here are my laws for you to take down to my people. It isn’t going to be easy because people don’t like change. They all have minds of their own; that is how I created them. But Moses, you must be the strong one. You must be mature and lead by example. If you do that, it will be okay.”
I wonder if on that holy mountain after receiving God’s careful and loving instruction, Moses developed a resolve to present God’s laws to the chosen people. And then he traveled down to the camp where he found his “children” had changed the culture of the community. There was a gold calf. There was dancing among other new forms of behavior. It seems that a lot changed in those 40 days and nights up on the mountain with God.
Moses must have been mad if he really threw the tablets and broke them like the story goes. I am guessing that his feelings have matched ones I have had when my children did not listen and follow instruction.
I find it funny as I think about this, how as parents, our goal and our responsibility is to raise kids to be mature adults that can think independently and survive in the world. And yet, we get upset when they don’t follow our instructions. The dichotomy of this whether it is the relationship we share with our children or our relationship with God is fascinating and frustrating at the same time.
There was a time when my youngest son, 25 years old at the time, called me for advice. We talked about the issue at hand and explored options together and their possible outcomes. We discussed all the ways to handle his situation and agreed on a plan. It then came time to “send him back down the mountain.” While our discussion did not parallel the Ten Commandments, it was up to him to have the determination to follow the plan.
When I think about Moses and the conversation with my son, and I think about the role of God and my role in these two situations, it becomes very clear. You see, God in this context is the parent and I am the child. It is, for me, like the relationship as a parent, I have with my children.
When I apply this to my own life, I am taken back to being a child. Not a kid, but a child of God. There are expectations. There is instruction given through the scripture and prayer. There are examples all around me, both good and bad, of how to live a life that would please our Father in heaven.
And so, even though I believe that God the Father worries about and celebrates his children as I do as a parent of my own children, I cannot forget my role as a child. I cannot forget that God gives me not only direction and advice, but also the gift of freewill. And, in the end, it is up to me.
[Image Credit: Public Domain via from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.]