When we taught our children some songs at church, one song in particular stirred their interest. My son even wanted to go see Gladly. "Who's Gladly?" I asked. "Gladly, the cross-eyed bear," he answered.
As our kids grew up in our home — my wife and I being non-conventional pastors — they often used strange terminology. I once overheard a neighbor ask my son what church we attended. He told them, "Admiral Benbow Inn." That was the hotel's name where we met in the ballroom each Sunday for church.
A little bit older, our son went to stay with his grandparents in Mississippi. His grandfather was building First Assembly of God's sanctuary here in Meridian. Back in Texas, he had been hearing his daddy teach from the Bible that the real church was composed of people —the body of Christ. He came back home excitedly telling me, "Daddy, he's not building a church like yours ... he's using real bricks!"
One thing about children: they are real, with no pretense. They let it all hang out. They don't trust a phony. Real love wins their hearts. Maybe that's why the Lord said that to enter His kingdom, we must become like little children — open-hearted, trusting.
What children need in order to thrive is "felt-love." Felt love is love that's expressed. It is manifested, tangible, not withheld. To a child, that's love with hands that tuck you in; a lap where you are held and hugged; a voice that calls your name.
I remember vividly when my first child was born, our son. We'd held on in faith and prayer while my wife threatened a miscarriage for months. When the doctor showed him to me, I was undone. As I took him in my arms, my heart nearly burst with love and pride.
Later, I went home by myself to our apartment and knelt down beside our bed to give thanks to God. I lifted up my hands and my face in worship and unashamedly cried out, "Father, now I know how you feel!"
Even to this very day, the felt love of God is a great mystery to me. I appreciate it. I need it. I want it. I accept it. But I don't understand it. I can experience it and enjoy it and I know that it's real, but I can't figure it out. It is beyond my comprehension.
Let me express it personally: how could God love me so much; treasure me so deeply; value me so greatly, that He would send Jesus to suffer on the cross so that my sins could be washed away and I could know the Father? He did this for me and He did it for you. Don’t you dare miss it!
Now that I am more sophisticated, more educated, more theologically informed, the mystery is even greater. Why? Because of this: Jesus said the Father loves us with the same love with which He loved Him! That bond within the Trinity is the very same kind of love that we can tap into by the pure grace of God. He adopted us “rejects” and “misfits.” He seated us as sons at His family table. All this and heaven too!
Ron Wood is a pastor, missionary, and writer serving Trinity Assembly of God. (601-483-8189) Hear his interviews and discussions on "The Father's Power" program each Sunday on SuperTalk radio, 103.3 FM, at 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. www.trinitymeridian.com