Ever since I can remember, I have always been my biggest critic. I have always found criticism to be an effective way to motivate myself for action. For example, looking in the mirror and critiquing the areas of my body that are out of shape motivates me to work out. I played baseball growing up, and critiquing my batting statistics always motivated me to go work on my swing. On the outside, that may sound like a positive thing. However, if you were inside my head and able to hear the way that I talked to myself to drive that motivation, you would probably not think it such a positive thing. For example, I can frequently remember saying things to myself like, “You idiot! How in the world did you miss that question on the test!? If you would have just studied a little harder, you would have scored 100% instead of a 98%!”
Unfortunately, because this is how I have always motivated myself, I just assumed that it must be how God would motivate me. It has always been a challenge for me to see him as the patient, kind and merciful Father that the bible portrays Him to be. My mind would sometimes rather paint Him as an overbearing and harsh Father with impossible expectations. Sometimes, I incorrectly see Him as my biggest critic, who is using that criticism to motivate me in a positive way.
Friends and family have told me on several occasions that having a child would help me to understand and relate to God as the patient and loving Father the bible portrays, but I didn’t understand what they meant until recently. Just two weeks ago, my wife and I welcomed our first child into the world. Her name is Eliza. For me, it was love at first site. Just laying eyes on her changed me in a way that I cannot explain. It has only been two weeks, but I have watched her grow and change so much already. It’s amazing to watch her figure out how to operate in her new world.
Every day, we do something with her called “tummy time”. During tummy time, we place Eliza on her stomach, either on the floor or on mommy or daddy’s chest. Then, we just watch her. The goal is for her to strengthen her neck muscles as she learns to lift her head up. One day, we were sitting there watching her, and she was grunting and straining as she attempted to lift up her little head. You would have thought that my wife and I were watching our favorite football team in the midst of a game winning drive during the super bowl. We cheered, “Common Eliza! You can do it! Look up at mommy and daddy!” Every time she lifted her head even an inch off the ground, we were so excited. We would say, “Good job, Eliza! You are doing so good! We are so proud of you!”
It was at that point, it sort of hit me. I looked over at my wife and said, “Do you think that this is exactly how God feels about us? Do you think that every time we step out in faith, in even the smallest way, He is in heaven saying, ‘Oh, look at my boy! Look at him stepping up and trying! You are doing so good, buddy. Keep going! You can do it!’” My wife looked back at me and said, “That is exactly what I think He does.”
That is when I realized, God is not my biggest critic, but my biggest cheerleader. He doesn’t expect me to come into His Kingdom and have it all figured out. In fact, He expects the opposite. He expects me to come in like a little child. He expects me to come in not having it all figured out, but to come in fully aware that I don’t have it figured out. That is when I will be eager and willing to learn from Him. That is when I will be willing to try.
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The other thing I realized is that when little Eliza failed, I did not think for one second to criticize her. I did not say, “What are you doing!? This is so easy. Just pick your head up and hold it there so we can move on to something more important!” I don’t believe that this is how our God relates to us either. In fact, when I researched the subject, I found 8 separate scriptures that specifically define God as, “slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness.” In fact, if we want to see the clearest picture of how God responds to our failures, all we have to do is look at the cross. The word does not say that when we give our lives to Him that He will constantly remind us of our sins in order to motivate us to change. The word actually says that He chooses to remember our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12)! I am now fully convinced that God is not my greatest critic. On the contrary, He is by far my biggest cheerleader!