The vulnerability of loving

Simon Smart on farewelling his daughter for six months, and how the love of a parent is an echo of the love God has for all of us.

Early this morning we waved our daughter off at the airport on a six-month overseas adventure. I put on a brave front, but the truth is my heart ached at her leaving. Since her first breath in a Vancouver hospital twenty years ago we’ve not been apart for more than about ten days at a time. I keep walking into her room feeling bereft in a way I hadn’t anticipated.

No one prepares you for all that comes with being a parent. It can inspire even the most selfish and superficial of us to rise to heights of sacrifice, patience, and commitment previously unimaginable. There are the frustrations, failures, and shortcomings too, and every parent knows and regrets these.

What never leaves you though is the strength of the mysterious bond you first feel for a little squawking bundle of flesh that somehow remains undiminished no matter how much they grow or how far they travel from you.

I wonder if in our best moments the connection a parent feels for a child is an echo of the kind of love the Bible reckons God has for all of us.

Some people grow up with a picture of God as stern and harsh and joyless which may mirror something of their own experience of being someone’s son or daughter.

But it’s not reflective of the Biblical narrative. There, God’s described in the most tender terms: a compassionate father who longs for and never gives up on his wayward son, or a shepherd who “gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart”.

This is a love that is irrepressible, nourishing, and life-giving. But it is also a love where God allows himself to be vulnerable, open to sadness and loss.

A bit like I felt today.