Eden went through a surprising phase for a few weeks about a year ago where she refused to listen to us, wouldn't accept discipline, and physically lashed out. We were blindsided by this whole thing.

Nothing we did was working to bring her out of it. She refused time out, refused to stay in her room, would laugh when we got frustrated with her physical responses, spit at us even. It was like something got into her that was alien and she became someone else that we were unfamiliar with. We felt powerless to stop it for a while.

Eventually, we found a way to respond graciously and patiently {mostly} but it was taxing. And when she finally exited this phase we were elated, happy to have it behind us.

Then, a few weeks ago, it happened again. We had a really rough night where she refused to listen only now we have the added complication of a 1 year old who doesn't really understand what's going down. Honestly, bed time for her couldn't come fast enough but she refused that as well.

The details of her rebellion aren't important for this story as much as how it made Meghann and I feel: worn out. Done. Spent. Frustrated.

She finally went to sleep and with that Meghann and I were able to rest and decompress from what we had just experienced. These moments as a parent are just so tiring. Even after you're left with lingering frustration over what you've had to deal with, doubt about whether you handled it the right way, and sometimes regrets over things said or done.

For instance, I was left with the regret of threatening to cancel Christmas. And in the moment, I wasn't playing, I was ready to go full Grinch with operation Christmas shutdown. It wasn't my finest moment. In the morning I was able to practice and model to Eden something important: confession and repentance.

Later Meghann headed to bed but I just wasn't ready so I stayed up. Before I went to bed I went into Eden's room and as I looked at her sleeping in her bed I was overcome with one feeling: JOY.

Even though I was frustrated with her, angry with how she had acted towards Meghann and I...even with all of that, her clear disobedience, her lack of trust in us in those moments of meltdown, her defiance, I stood in her room and looked at this little girl whom I love so dearly and as I looked upon her my heart felt nothing but complete and total JOY.

I was overjoyed as I considered how much I love this little girl, how grateful I am to be her Daddy even through her times of rebellion, how much I enjoy seeing her grow and learn, and how there were glimmers of growth even in the midst of her rebellion. At the end of the night when she ran off upstairs during what was supposed to be night-night time, we in our exhaustion and desire to be patient with her didn't pursue her, we let her go. Eventually she returned and when she looked at us, something she saw in our body language or facial expression moved her to express empathy towards us. She apologized without us asking her to. That's a big step for a 4 year old.

But as I looked at her, overjoyed, I also thought about how I loved her. Love is a choice we make, we choose to love or to not love. Surely, whoever we love can sometimes make loving them easier {and harder!}, but in the end it's still a choice.

Eden doesn't have to earn my love, it will always be hers. She certainly didn't do anything that night to make me feel joyous or affectionate, in fact, you could say the opposite. But yet, here I stood, heart leaping in my chest as I stood there grateful to have her in my life. Grateful that she was mine and I was hers.

That's what it's like to be a parent. To love someone unconditionally.

As I stood there something else came over me. Joy turned to greater joy so much so that I began to tear up.

I was suddenly gripped by this thought: if my love for Eden is this strong, my affection for her this overwhelming even in the face of her outright rebellion, so much so that I'm overcome with joy when I look at her then how does Jesus feel when he looks at me?

A Greater Love

My love for Eden indeed is great but there is yet a greater love. I believe that any love that I express is a reflection of this greater love.

In the Story of Jesus we read about someone who is not only loving but about someone who is love embodied. Jesus is the very definition of love.

John, one of Jesus' followers, wrote the following in one of his letters:
My loved ones, let us devote ourselves to loving one another. Love comes straight from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and truly knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

The love I express then comes from that source, it's a glimpse of who Jesus is. And when I think about how Jesus loves me, I must consider then that he loves me like I love Eden only better, a more perfect love. One that never threatens to cancel Christmas out of desperation.

He loves Eden in a way that outshines my love for her. In a way, when she encounters Jesus' love it should seem both familiar and foreign, like something she knows but better. Kind of like when Meghann and I went to Boca (a fantastic restaurant in Cincinnati), we had what might be a once in a lifetime meal. It was familiar, it's food made from ingredients we know {mostly}, but also foreign because it was just so much better than food we've had anywhere else. There is no comparison.

Jesus' love is like that. It's like the best love you know but better, more perfect.

So back to me standing in Eden's room, I'm overcome with joy both because of the love I have for Eden and the love I felt in that moment from Jesus. And it made me realize something else.

I like many other people, find it easy to beat myself up. I dwell on my failures. I find it easy to criticize myself. I pinpoint every bad decision, every poor habit, and I focus not on how far I've come but how far I've yet to go.

And when I do that, I find that in those moments I it's easy to believe that Jesus does it too. Like he joins in and agrees with all of my assessments.

But he doesn't. He doesn't! If I'm capable of loving Eden the way I do, of showing her such grace and patience, how much more so does Jesus, who is love personified, show those same things towards me and you!

Even on my worst day and also on my best day and every day in between I can rest knowing that at the end of the day as I lay my head down to sleep Jesus is standing by my bed overjoyed with me. I can rest knowing that his love and affection for me will never depend on me proving my worthiness of it.

He loves me and always will because I am His and He is mine.