One of the highlights of my week occurs at 9:02 each Sunday morning. That’s the moment five-year-old Grace gets to church, and before she even gets her coat off, she comes barreling down the aisle to throw her arms around Daniel and me. She squeals with delight the moment she spots us (most likely because she knows Daniel has some antic up his sleeve to make her laugh), and then she’s heading toward us in an all-out sprint, pink dress flying behind her.
There is something breathtaking about the love of a child—unchecked, unbridled, unselfconscious as it is. At five, Grace doesn’t know to be jaded or cynical; she’s never had her heart broken; she doesn’t love as a means to an end. She just extends loves with the openhearted generosity of a child.
“You know, I feel bad sometimes that Grace shows us so much love,” Daniel told me one Sunday as we headed home from church.
I shot him a sideways glance, utterly befuddled. “What?”
“Well, it’s just that we haven’t done anything to deserve her love.”
My initial thought was to list off all of Daniel’s qualities that endear him to every child he meets—his goofy sense of humor, his knack for asking good questions, his way of making people feel special and dignifying their feelings. But then it hit me: ultimately he’s right. We don’t deserve that kind of love.
Eventually a smile crept across my face. “I guess she’s pretty well named, huh?”
God’s grace in the form of a sprinting five-year-old.
The Bible depicts God with a number of metaphors that speak to his reverence and majesty: he is a just judge, a consuming fire, a sovereign King. But what a shock to see the one true God—whose holiness can’t be contained within the walls of even the most extravagant Temple—pictured as a father who loves his wayward child so much he literally runs to him.
While [his son] was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
That image of a father running to a prodigal would be stunning enough on its own (see more in this post). But given the cultural context Jesus was speaking into, it’s even more breathtaking. As one Bible commentator puts it, the father’s action “breaks all Middle Eastern protocol; no father would greet a rebellious son this way.” It would have been degrading to his position, a blow to his pride, yet the father “drapes himself on his son’s neck,” as the Greek text is literally rendered. In other words, God is willing to make a fool of himself to show us his love.
Allow yourself to picture it now: our God as a runner.
He is running toward you, even now.
Will you let him throw his arms around you—those everlasting arms of grace?