The Delight of A Father

It must have been a routine morning for Evelyn. She seemed at home in her recliner, beneath the warm light filtering through a stained-glass lampshade. Outside, quiet rain was gathering from the low clouds that blanketed Fallbrook on this average, gloomy day.

Pastor Stan had Isaiah by the shoulders, gently leading him from lady to lady — six of them, gathered to hear our Christmas carols in the living room of the assisted living facility. I watched as he introduced my little boy to a handful of Fallbrook’s eldest residents. This is Lois. This is Nikki. This is Evelyn.

Evelyn was last, as they worked counterclockwise around the room. There were twenty of us in a circle, and as we started in on “Midnight Clear,” Isaiah did something that I don’t ever want to forget. I looked up from adjusting my guitar capo to see him holding Evelyn’s hand. Apparently, he hadn’t let go after they shook.

It was tough to sing that first verse, watching my boy by her chair, perfectly content to hold this stranger’s hand. I suspected he might have been uncomfortable, but I was wrong. After intermission for apple cider, without any prompting, Isaiah shuffled dutifully back to Evelyn’s side and slipped his soft little hand into her weathered palm.

After a few more songs, we piled into the van. On to the next house. But I couldn’t get the image out of my head: Isaiah and Evelyn, separated by so much time, so much history — wars and presidents and at least 90 Christmases — and still good company.

What I really couldn’t shake was the punch to the gut it had been to witness my three-year-old doing something that even I would be hesitant to do — and I don’t mean the physical act of holding hands; I mean the gesture. Words cannot convey how proud I was, for the first time, of something my son had done of his own initiative. Something that mattered.

And it made me wonder: Can I make my heavenly Father proud like that? Is it possible? Or is He so high above, so mighty and glorious, that I can only hope to be acceptable?

The prophet Micah meditated on this question. Centuries before Christ would revolutionize mankind’s relationship to its Creator, Micah pondered the sacrificial system and understood the heart of the Father: “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?”

Would that please the Father? Would the broken carcass of a calf bring Him delight? Micah raised the stakes.

“Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

Would the sacrifice of Abraham please God? How painful would it have to be in order to satisfy this Almighty God? Was He the type to demand tragic, costly offerings like the false gods of Palestine?

No.

The opposite.

This was a Father in search of a moment — that same moment Isaiah gave to me, as I struggled to choke back the emotion. A Father longing for something to smile about.

“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

He wants to walk with you. He is just; He wants you to exercise justice. His loving-kindness is the saving motive, the divine impulse that spares our souls; love it, child. He wants to see you doing the things that He does, because there is endless beauty in sharing a Christmas carol with someone who might not have held a sweet little hand for years now, who might have forgotten the touch.

holding hands

In one of his last psalms, David wrote that “the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” The Hebrew word rāsāh is sometimes translated as the verb “delight,” but here (and in most places) it is rendered “take pleasure in.” Depending on the context, it connotes favor, acceptability, pleasure. It seems to me like a word that unlocks one of God’s important emotional traits, because it indicates that we can actually bring Him joy. I don’t understand it. I can’t imagine how. But it is part of the relationship — perhaps the best part, this sublime exchange of enjoyment, Father to children, children to Father.

The reason God desires more than sacrifices is that He wants us to be more than acceptable. He wants us to be delightful, and to be constantly delighted with Him. This Christmas, I hope you see the value in seeking not only God’s approval, not just His hand, but His pleasure and His smile.