I think it is amazing how many times we need to be told something before it finally sinks in. We can tell our spouse and children, friends and loved ones that we love them, but many times it just does not sink in. It is the same way when God tells us He loves us. I think deep inside we know that God loves us, but to conceptualize the amount of love He has for us is beyond our understanding.
Four months after moving to Killeen, Texas, I was in church on a Sunday morning. I had Jamie on my right arm and Jonathan on my left arm and we were singing praise songs to God. As I was singing, Jamie lifts her right arm to God and Jonathan lifts his left arm to God. Suddenly I was filled with overwhelming love and joy to the point of exploding. There is not anything more wonderful than watching your children lift their hands to God, and the love I felt inside was totally awesome. Then God spoke to my spirit. He said, “Craig, the way you as a father love your children, is the way I, God the Father, love my children. I just have billions times more people to love.” He blew me away. Whew. I still cannot fathom that much love focused at our little planet, much less imagine the concept of Someone loving billions times more than me. God is so Wonderful that it is no wonder people say God is Love.
I had a young woman ask me one time how I could love so many children, being the father of five and the step-father of five. She had a beautiful little girl that she absolutely adored, and her husband was seeking to have another child. She asked me how she could love a second child as much as she loved her first. I explained it to her this way. When you are a child, you love your parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, friends, relatives, etc. Then you grow older, fall in love, and get married. When your first child is born, your heart explodes with love and joy. You think there is no way in the world you could ever love another human being as much as you love that little blessing. But when your second child is born, your heart gets bigger. A new baby does not share the space in your heart with the first child or with anyone else you have ever loved. Your heart gets bigger so that love can grow and grow. Your heart just explodes with love. Glory to God.
It sometimes amazes me to think that perhaps the only way we can ever become a spirit being is to be so filled with love that our fleshly bodies cannot contain it. I think it is pretty wonderful to think that if we fill our self with that much love we can truly explode, into spirit. When Jesus returns and our eyes are really opened to how much He loves us, and how much God the Father loves us, perhaps we that are His will explode with that love. Who knows?
Uh-oh, you caught me rambling. It is time to get back to my story. After this morning in church when Jamie and Jonathan had lifted their hands to God, the devil was trying to steal the knowledge I had gained about God’s love for mankind. I know the devil is a liar and thief, but he attacks us as much as he can. And we don’t always respond the way we should.
My oldest stepdaughter, Christi, was entering a stage of rebellion that was getting very hard to control. I believe my wife, Mauri, had something to do with the attacks she went through. When we had gotten to Killeen, Mauri had introduced our oldest daughter to all the thugs in the junior high school. Of course their parents were delighted to have a girl come into the school who was such a good influence on their daughters, but I did not know at the time what my wife had done. When you put a child in the darkness, you better check on them every once in a while. Her prayer protection was not as strong as it should have been, and as a result our daughter was being influenced more than she was influencing. The battle was on. It reached a critical point on a Friday afternoon when her brothers had found a nasty letter from a black boy in the back seat of the car. By Monday afternoon, the war between mother and daughter had escalated to such a point that Mauri called me at work and begged me to come home and help her. I came home to a war zone. Christi was screaming that her mother was prejudiced and I was prejudiced and she was going to run away, and all the stupid things a fourteen-year old girl says. I tried to bring peace into the discussion by asking if the black boy she wanted to have as a boyfriend was a Christian. Christi said he was a Christian and his mother and father were Christians too, and the letter we found was not from him.
I will give a little background of my thought process at this time. I have friends of all colors and varied backgrounds. I truly believe God loves people of every color, nationality and creed. I believe God made us different colors for His pleasure, not as a by-product of evolution. I have wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ of different colors, and it has never mattered to me what color a person is. If they love the Lord, does anything else matter? Personally, I think God would rather have His children remain the color He would have them to be, for His pleasure. I think, but I sure can’t state it for a fact, God delights in all His creation, which includes His children of different colors. It is kind of like eating a meal. A person can eat just steak, but all the side dishes add to the beauty and pleasure of the meal. If you take the steak, fried potatoes, beans, salad and desert and put them into a blender and mix them together into a nice mush, you still have the same meal but it is not quite the same. However, that is my point of view, and there is nothing in the Bible that says people of different colors cannot fall in love and get married. The most important thing to me is that the boyfriends or girlfriends of my children are Christians.
Well, back to Christi and Mauri. At the point Christi told me that her friend was a Christian and his parents were Christians too, I gave my blessing. I told her that the most important thing to me was that he was a Christian, and that Mauri and I would support her in her decision if he truly were a Christian young man. Then Mauri made a comment that really ticked me off. She told me I wouldn’t say that if Christi were my real daughter like Jennifer, my oldest daughter in Europe. And I blew up. The hardest thing about being a stepfather is the kids and the wives. I loved Christi and always have only wanted the best for her, so I did not feel Mauri’s comment had been fair or truthful. I walked into the living room and proceeded to crush the entertainment center. One mighty blow with my left hand broke every shelf on the entertainment center. And I left the house.
For the next three days, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, my spirit grieved. I have never felt as far away from God as I felt during this period of time. Of course our house was like a morgue, and even going to work at the Christian bookstore made it worse. I was grief stricken, and felt a million miles away from God. The barrage from the devil was continuous, as he would attack with: You sure didn’t exhibit any fruits of the spirit. Your anger was real, which makes you mine said the devil. Who are you kidding about being spiritual and a child of God, you have my characteristics, not His. Admit you are mine, because you exhibit my fruits said the devil. The attacks were endless and continued on, and on, and on and on. My spirit was in upheaval and I mourned. I took Christi to school the next three mornings, and not a word was said. She would slam the door when she got out of the car and I would breath a sigh of relief that she was gone. I am sure she felt the same way. However, that Friday morning, I talked to her as I took her to school. I told her I loved her and I wanted her to have the very best in life. It did not matter what color her friends were as long as they were children of God. I told her that I did not want boys to use and abuse her, regardless of their color, because I loved her. I told her how boys would use a girl and pass her around, and explained how much riff-raff there was in a military town. There are many, many wonderful people, but there are some trashy people too. I just told her I loved her and wanted the very best for her. She didn’t say a word that morning, but she shut the door quietly when she got out of the car. That was the morning though that our relationship turned back one hundred and eighty degrees to where it should be, and to where it always has remained.
After Christi got out of the car that morning, I drove to the bank. On the way, I apologized to God. I told Him I could not live without Him as the center of my being. I couldn’t go on without knowing He was with me. I told Him I loved Him with all my heart and being, and I asked Him to please forgive me for not exhibiting His love to my family. Tears filled my soul to such an extent I had to wait a few minutes to get out of the car to go into the bank. When I got to work, I prayed again. The store opened at ten, and about fifteen minutes before ten one of the young ladies that worked for me telephoned the store. She said she was praying and God had asked her to call me and pray for me. She asked me if it was okay to pray for me, and I said, “Yes, of course.” Basically, her prayer was that I would know how much God loves me. Her prayer blessed me. I told her thank you for the prayer, and then I opened the store. My first customer in the store that morning made a purchase and then turned to leave the store. She was about fifteen feet away from the counter when she turned and said, “You know that God loves you very much, don’t you?” I said, “Yes, I do.” Then she said, “Well, He just told me to tell you.” Four of the next five customers that came into the store that morning told me the same thing, that God loves me very much. I think He probably told all five but only four were faithful in passing along the message.
That was the morning that it finally went from my head to the very core of my being. God loves me very much. There is a difference between knowing God loves you, to knowing that you know, that you know, that you know that God loves you totally. And He loves you exactly where you are in your walk with Him. It is His love that keeps us on His straight and narrow path. Picture a baseball field and you are wandering around out in left field. It is God’s love that brings us back to the base path. The awesome amount He loves us, regardless of how many times we mess up, is more than I can grasp. But I know that He does. And He always will. It is amazing to me to remember how quick God was to let me know how much He loved me after I had told Him I was sorry. When we repent, He is quick to forgive. But it is not always easy to repent. When we do backslide, the devil is quick to attack. Shrug the attacks off and know that God loves you and wants you back into fellowship with Him. And believe me, there is no place I would rather be than with You God. I love You Lord.
That weekend I lifted Christi to God. Mauri was reading a book that said to wrap our children as a present to God. So I did just that. I mentally wrapped Christi is the most beautiful box I could imagine, with the prettiest wrapping paper I had ever seen, and the most beautiful ribbon and bow. Then I took the beautiful package and placed it at the foot of the throne of God. As I prayed I told God I can do everything that is humanly possible to protect my children as I had done with Christi. I can raise my children to love and fear the Lord, and I can do everything I possibly can to ensure they know God is the center of our home and that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. But eventually, they go outside to play with friends, they go to school, etc. and we are not around when the peer pressure begins. I can do everything I can do, but there is no way possible for me to always be with them. That is why I placed this beautiful box at the feet of God. I know God can care for our children always, because He is always around. Does it mean you will not go through any tests? Not hardly. But the tests are never more than you can bear, if God is in charge.
Thank you Lord for being in charge of my life and the life of my family. I love You.