I remember very vividly one day, not long after bringing our newborn daughter home from the hospital, changing her diaper. Everything to her was new, and consequently everything was very scary for her (and me — let’s be honest). Diaper changes? She hated them. Sleeves on her shirts? WHAT IS THIS DEVILRY. But what’s a parent to do? You can’t just say to your kid, “sure, stay in the dirty diaper. And I know that shirt is covered in spit up and/or diaper blowout but since you don’t really want it changed, you can keep wearing it.” You’re the parent. You just have to bear up and plow ahead.
It had been a long morning with lots of crying, not a lot of sleeping, and a deep desire for things to JUST BE NORMAL FOR ONE MINUTE. Despite her very inconvenient protestations, which included flailing and rolling everywhere, I started to change the diaper. “I know you don’t like this,” I said to her, exasperated, “but its for your good!”
My words echoed very loudly in my own head. Not because I’d said them in anger or frustration, but because I was suddenly very aware of the Holy Spirit working in that moment as I struggled to get the Huggies fastened snugly on my wiggling, crying infant.
The older our daughter gets, the more often I get to realize just what a unique perspective parenthood gives us on God’s relationship to us. I’ve always had a good relationship with my parents, and it was very easy for me to comprehend my status as a child of God. But I’d never had much of a chance, until now, to wonder how God feels as my Father.
How frequently am I the infant crying as God is trying to clothe me in his righteousness after he’s cleansed me of my sins? The better question still, is how frequently is he the exasperated parent, rolling his eyes and admonishing me, “it’s for your good!”
The Bible is always whispering to us that God’s plans, discipline, and provision are for our good.
“For I know the plans I have for you… plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
“Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproved; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal…. Behold, this we have searched out; it is true. Hear, and know it is for your good.” (Job 5:17-18, 27)
But the perplexing thing (for me and my sinful heart) is that God is apparently never exasperated.
The Bible constantly reminds us that God is slow to anger and abounding in mercy:
“The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” (Exodus 34:6)
“The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Numbers 14:16)
“They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.” (Nehemiah 9:17)
“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:5)
The Old Testament repeats this phrase, “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” no fewer than a dozen times. God’s chosen people disobeyed him, ignored his power and might, and turned to other gods all the time. He did provide discipline. He let his children experience the consequences of their actions. Yet, instead of losing his patience with his children he reminded them of his patience.
It’s hard for me to imagine myself doing the same in situations when I’m tempted to lose my patience. First of all, it wouldn’t feel particularly honest to remind my daughter of my abounding steadfast love, mercy, and patience because, frankly, I am none of those things naturally. I am naturally a self-centered, fickle, impatient person. But what if every time I was at the end of my fuse I tried to remind myself of my newness in Christ?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I haven’t actually tried this strategy yet, but I’m willing to guess that I would slam doors with much less frequency. And I’m willing to bet that if I remembered more often that God’s provision for me – however perplexing to me in my present circumstance – is for my good, I’d probably be generally more content to wait and see.
I’m so thankful that God reveals himself to us in little things like diaper changes. Praise be to him who is making all things new, whose plans are perfect, and whose love never ends!