I am for you and not against you

“I am for you.”

That’s what I tell my 12-year-old daughter after a long day and after we’ve flopped down onto the overstuffed blue couches to pray and to  chat  before bed.

It’s probably what I’ll be saying often for the next few years as she steps into the teen years.

Maybe it seems like some days I’m against her.

I tell her what she can’t have or what she can’t do.  She carries home yet another flyer advertising yet another activity and I remind her that her calendar is already dripping with ink from her doing so much.

She talks about movies, books, songs, apps, and sometimes she’s the one left out.  She doesn’t know that band.  She hasn’t read that book.  Maybe we won’t let her see that movie.

This is hard.  This is her coming to grips with what it means not to fit in, what it means to miss out, what it means to let things go even when others around her indulge like it’s no big deal.

Of course, she’s a good girl.  She’s not asking to attend wild parties or drink or do drugs or even watch a PG-13 movie.  That’s not her.

Still I explain it that night to her as we relax on the sofa in a moment of quiet, and I hope what I say sinks deeply down to the needy parts of her heart:

I am not against you.  Even when it feels like I’m against you because I’m not giving you what you want or what even feels reasonable or what other people get.  I’m never your enemy and I’m never out to hurt you or deprive you of what is good. 

No.  I am for you.  Always.  Because I love you.  And it’s because I want the very best for you that sometimes I have to keep you from the second-best, or even what seems “good,” or perhaps what we both know isn’t right or true.

She nods her head in understanding for  now.

I hope the understanding lasts.  It probably won’t, not all the time.  I’m sure I’ll be echoing these words again and again, if not to her, then to her siblings.

It makes me marvel at God really, because He knows how I feel.  He knows what it’s like to be the parent having the hard conversations, building the unpopular boundaries, saying the “no” that a child doesn’t want to hear.

In Romans it says:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  (Romans 8:31 ESV)

And the Psalmist wrote:

Then my enemies will turn back
    in the day when I call.
    This I know, that God is for me (Psalm 56:9 ESV).

God isn’t for me because He gives me everything I want.

 

To says God is for me means  His heart, His passion, His desire is for my ultimate blessing and my ultimate good.  He wants the best for me, even if it feels uncomfortable at the time because it’s not what I wanted or what seemed easy or appealing.

He knows what’s truly good and what I truly need, and that’s what He’s going to be doing in my life, directing, guiding, pausing, saying “no,” and saying “yes.”

So, as my daughter shuffles off to her room for bed, I sit for a moment with God. It’s as if He nudges me with His elbow to say, “See?  See what I’ve been trying to tell you?”

God isn’t against me when I don’t like His timing.

God isn’t against me when I long for the blessing He doesn’t choose to give (or when He gives it to someone else and not to me).  Even if we feel sometimes like everyone else His favorite because He so readily gives to them the things He withholds from us (and what’s that all about, anyway?).

God isn’t against me when my plans go awry or His plans don’t seem to make sense.

God isn’t against me when I experience injustice or hurtfulness.

God is for me.

He is for you.

It’s a matter of trusting His love for us, trusting Him enough to love us well and love us completely and to believe it when we read, “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly”  (Psalm 84:11 ESV).

This is for you

romans-8-16

I had been preparing him for at least a week.

“Andrew,” I’d say, “the girls are going to go to school soon.”

And he’d nod his in agreement as if we were totally on the same page here.  “Yes. Andrew goes to school.”

“No, babe.  Andrew stays with Mommy.”

“No, I go to school with Catherine!  I go on the school bus.”

I explained it.  I corrected him.  I tried to make sure he’d really understand.

But of course he didn’t.

Tuesday morning came, the first day of school.  We strolled out to wait for the school bus and snapped some “first day of school” photos.

He wore his own John Deere backpack and looked eager to fit in with the big girls, posing for the pictures with everyone else.

He didn’t ask why we were hanging out in the front yard.  Why we stood around wearing backpacks and watching the road.  Why I placed a hand on each of my daughters and prayed for them.

Then the bus arrived.

I scooped him up and held him as he slowly and fully realized the situation.

“No!!!  I go to school!”  He squirmed and wiggled, trying to escape and make it onto the bus, but then it pulled away and there we were: just mom and the two-year-old.  No more summer fun with the big sisters.

I had a plan, though.  After all, I’m an old-pro at this by now.  We stopped long enough in the house just to grab our bag and then walked right back out the door.

We played at a playground.  We took a long walk.  We hung out at the library.  We ate chicken nuggets.  We came home just in time to watch some Mickey Mouse before he took a nap.

And when he woke up, it was time to get the girls.

There.  One day down.  169 more school days to go.

I can’t treat him to a morning out on the town every day of this school year, of course.

But my heart is FOR him.  I plan ways to ease his disappointment.  I prepare him for difficult seasons and the hard days.

I know what he loves and how to bring him joy.

I pray for his year just as much as I pray for the girls who climbed up into a school bus and headed off for classrooms, playgrounds, and busy hallways.

Maybe it felt like I was against him.  I was the obstacle to him climbing onto that big yellow bus and having a grand old time at school with his sisters.

But no.  This is the tough love, the mysterious mercy.  Kindergarten will arrive all too soon and then he will go and time will rush on.

No need to skip over this precious time and these few years without homework and tests, grades, playground squabbles, and the like.

This is the way I love my son.

And this is the way I am loved.

And this is the way God loves you too.

In Romans, I read a question:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  (Romans 8:31 ESV).

It means that I shouldn’t fear persecution from others. I shouldn’t fear what any man could do to me because God is mighty and able and is my Protector and Shield.

But before I get to that, I need to stop here:  God is FOR us.

This is the truth we rely on.

If God wasn’t for us, we’d be deeply vulnerable to the attacks of others and the battering of this world.  We’d be lost causes and hopeless messes.

But that’s not who we are because that’s not who HE is.

God is, indeed, FOR us, and that changes everything.

He tenderly cares for the truest needs of our hearts.  He extends mysterious mercy, protecting us in ways we don’t see, providing for us in ways we can’t imagine, and preparing us for futures we can’t anticipate.

In this same chapter in Romans, we see what this looks like:

  • We are no longer condemned (Romans 8:1)
  • We have life through His Spirit (Romans 8:12)
  • We are beloved children and heirs of God (Romans 8:14-17)
  • The Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26).
  • He’s working everything out for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).
  • Christ is interceding for us even now (Romans 8:34).
  • We can’t be separated from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35).
  • We are more than conquerors in Jesus (Romans 8:37).

We can rest right here, just stretch ourselves out on this sweet bed of promise:  Because God is FOR us, we need not be afraid–not of the unexpected, not of the uncertain, not of the painful or the downright hard.

This is what it means to be extravagantly and abundantly loved by our gracious God.