Deeper Insight Into the Love of God…Plus Free Popcorn!

One of the many, many ways in which God has been faithful to me, especially true in the last several years, is in His ongoing willingness to use what little I know of His Word – the Bible – to bring about deep, soul-penetrating insight, along with a gentle call to repent of my sins and trust Him more and more with each passing day. Thrice holy and absolutely righteous, He could choose to end a “lesson” by smoking me with a lightning bolt and be perfectly justified. Instead, the God of the universe is pleased, every now and then, to quietly call me to repentance with vivid word pictures and illustrations.

God very mercifully provided me with yet another such illustration this past weekend when, for various reasons, it turned out that I was left “alone” in Columbia, for roughly eight hours, with my four-year-old son Elijah. I actually think I am a better father when I am working as part of a team with my wife; left to my own devices, I can stumble and stammer a bit when trying to enter into and participate in the world of a young child, even my own. And so, as we considered together how we wanted to spend this sizable chunk of a day, I wanted to make sure that we both had a good time, if possible.

I quickly found my thoughts drifting toward, “Hey, how about I treat the boy to a real movie? We almost never get to go to an actual movie theater together! We’ll do it up right, get popcorn, candy, drinks…the whole deal. I’ll make sure he goes to the bathroom just ahead of show time so we don’t have to walk out in the middle…it will be great!” And so it was that I began the delicate process of negotiating with Eli as to whether or not this sounded like a good idea to him, too. What I did not want to do was expend a great deal of time, effort, and (let’s face it) money if he would rather just stay home and play with Hot Wheels or some of his still-classified-as-cool Christmas presents.

It was Saturday morning, and even though we were both shaking off a bad cold, I was so totally on my game. Sitting at his mother’s desk, I called Eli over to Mom’s computer to view the trailer for Tangled, the only movie playing in town to which I would be willing to take him. After watching the trailer, he started jumping up and down in excitement. When I told him that we would be watching this movie “on the really big TV” (four-year-old code for “the movie theater”) he almost began foaming at the mouth. As it happened, just a few weeks earlier he had asked his Mom if “one day” he and I could go see a movie together. Y.E.S. The perfect Saturday afternoon plan unfolds!

Acting fast, I printed off a Hollywood Theaters coupon for a free medium-size popcorn, thereby “sticking it to The Man” for six big ones. I loaded up the much-used Elmo backpack with a change of underwear, pants and socks – for Eli, not me – “just in case.” I grabbed two cold bottles of water from the fridge and a box of chocolate-covered raisins (his favorite movie candy) and tossed them in the bag as well. Money? Check. Popcorn coupon? Check. Departing in time to catch a bit of lunch on the way, I even pulled over at Taco Bell to fulfill his less-than-nutritious meal request: “Chips and cheese.” In short, I was totally, 100% committed to my son’s afternoon of happiness, and very grateful that it looked like everything was unwinding according to plan.

And everything did go great, just as we had planned, until the final few minutes of the film. Without spoiling the plotline (it is a Disney movie, after all), let me just say that the final few minutes of the film are fairly intense. The “leading man” is injured to the point that blood flows; it looks like he may very well die! Rapunzel is in the clutches of an evil woman, seeking to imprison her away from the world for the rest of her days! All possible means of delivery and/or escape appear to have been exhausted! And it was right at that moment, literally just a few seconds prior to the final resolution of the plot, that my son announced his displeasure loudly, for all theater patrons to hear:

“Dad, why did you even bring me to this show? I hate this stuff! That bad witch makes me sad! I didn’t even want to come to this show, Dad!”

Thrown under the bus by my own flesh and blood.

In that short outburst, Eli very-publicly fingered me as his father not once, but twice, and intimated – for all to hear – that he had vehemently campaigned against this outing from the very beginning. “My gosh…what kind of rotten father drags his unwilling child to scary movies?” The knowing chuckles in the auditorium, however, told me that every other parent was in on the joke. How many of them, I wondered, had also been falsely ratted out in front of a crowd of strangers?

It was only a few brief seconds before I managed to get Eli quieted down (though it certainly felt much longer) and the laughter in the room died down. The plot of the movie resolved itself in favor of the good guys (imagine that!) and we quickly got back into our all-is-right-with-the-world groove. But in the immediate aftermath of Eli’s outburst, it occurred to me that this experience provided me with a clear picture of how my own life of faith has all-too-frequently played itself out. And I couldn’t help but think of the time when Nathan the prophet confronted David with his sin in 2 Samuel 12:1-15. “Thou art the man,” indeed! God had used Eli to point something out to me.

As “betrayals” go, Eli’s caricature of me as an uncaring, unloving father is pretty tame stuff. But even with the stakes as low as they were, in the heat of moments like that, my own “fear of man” issues can pop up and bring me to a place where I would like to ask the projectionist to stop the movie so I can calmly explain to all the other patrons how I diligently showed Eli the trailer before I brought him out to Stadium 14, how he responded that he very much wanted to see the movie and I had been working feverishly all day to make him happy. Thankfully, I chose instead to meditate on how quick I am to turn on God whenever something doesn’t turn out quite the way I would prefer.

The multiple parallels are impressive. God is forever working to bring about what is best for me (Romans 8:28) and yet when things don’t go the way I think they should, I can be depressingly quick to blame Him and doubt His goodness. When things don’t work out the way I want them to, I can quickly forget a hundred good blessings (Acts 17:24-25; Matthew 5:43-45; Psalm 8) and answered prayers (Jeremiah 33:2-3; John 9:31-33) that preceded the disappointment and choose instead to focus on the one area where God has (by my reckoning) “let me down.” Lacking the wisdom to see that one upsetting scene in a movie does not negate an entire afternoon being given over to seeking his pleasure, Eli is just mirroring my own tendency to neglect a lifetime’s worth of blessings (Deuteronomy 8) and give in to the temptation to murmur, grumble and even actively accuse God of wrongdoing (Exodus 16:2-3).

I am absolutely convinced that parenting teaches us more about the love of God than anything else. Although we as parents are obviously flawed and sinful where God is entirely holy and just, the analogy nevertheless works quite well to shine a light on how often unselfish love can be repaid with indifference, a complete lack of gratitude…or even hostility. We want to look at our kids and think that “if only they were more enlightened” they would appreciate the lengths to which we’ve gone on their behalf. There is nothing quite like feeling a deep, deep love for one of your children – only to have them repay that love with disrespect (or worse) – to make the truth that God loves us while we are yet sinners find a permanent foothold on the heart (Romans 5:8).

For your consideration, then, a couple of application points from my Saturday afternoon adventure:

  • The Holy Spirit seems to prefer using God’s Word to illuminate our hearts. This is not to say that God cannot or does not use whatever means are available to speak to those whom He loves; He very clearly does. All I am saying is that most of the deeper, more enduring truths that have been hammered into my heart came from analogy/application from something that I once read in Scripture. Simply stated, I would not have been able to process Eli’s outburst at the movie theater quite as meaningfully had I not repeatedly read the account of Nathan’s confrontation with King David in 2 Samuel. In my opening paragraph, I confessed that I do not know the Bible as well as I should, and yet God lovingly condescends to use what little I do know to take me deeper into His Truth when applied to my life and the life of my four-year-old.

  • We should probably all pray and reflect at some length before confronting someone else’s sin. I give King David credit for being a very brilliant and capable leader despite his sin. Still, it’s interesting to see how quickly David rushes to judgment (see verse 5) and decrees that another person needs to die for the crime of stealing another man’s sheep…failing, at first, to see that Nathan was really pointing to David’s own sin vis-a-vis adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah. Scaling the seriousness down considerably, it’s helpful, I think, to briefly consider how often I have been upset with God before I respond to my own child for crying out against me in public (Matthew 7:1-5). Adding in my own propensity to live a life lacking in gratitude toward God helps me slow down a bit and instruct my child according to what is appropriate…as opposed to responding reflexively out of embarrassment.

The movie itself? Yeah, sure, I can definitely recommend it for both young boys and girls. There’s plenty of action/adventure to keep the boys on their toes, the animation is (of course) top notch and, apparently, you might even walk away with a biblical insight into the heart of your child (as well as your own). Sign up for some level of movie business e-mail spam and get your free popcorn here. Enjoy!

2 Samuel 12:1-15 (ESV)
“Nathan Rebukes David”
And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.'” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.” Then Nathan went to his house.

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