I saw it as I stepped outdoors that cold wintry evening, as the sun’s rays slanted low across the western sky; as the winter chill increased and dusk descended. I saw it again when I began my walk around the Oval. It was bright but not too bright. A smile. A beautiful curved bright glowing happy smile. Shining down on me. A crescent moon glowing radiant, high up in a deepening evening sky. It had to be my Father's smile.
The bright welcoming smile of my Father God beaming down upon me.
I’d enjoyed a good day. But a matter weighed heavy within. A friend had come to me for help. I’d helped her the best I could. The problem was that I didn’t know if I’d helped her. Whether I’d done it the best way. My intentions were good. But had I failed her? Had I been judgemental? Had I hurt rather than helped? Had I failed to be the balm she needed? I didn’t know. I only knew I didn’t know. So often I find that I have too little wisdom. I need God’s wisdom then. Had I acted with God’s wisdom that day? Or my own?
How could I be sure?
And so, when I began my walk that day, and God’s beautiful smile shone down on me so lovingly, I stopped walking; surprised. My Father’s smile? When I may have failed him? When I may have stumbled? Did I deserve it? Didn’t I deserve harsh words and criticism instead? Shouldn’t He be correcting me tonight?
What if I had failed?
As I walked on, the twilight deepened into a beautiful night. Stars came out one by one. And all the while, my Father’s smile shone down at me. Every time I looked up, there it was. Clear. Visible. A glow around it. A friendly star winked at me not far from my Father’s smile. And my Father’s smile deepened. The darker the night became, the brighter His smile shone.
It struck me then with clarity that I don’t do anything to earn His smile. Neither can I earn His love. It always is. Simply because I am His child. I may falter. I may stumble. I may sin. I may make a mistake or two – too many – too often. But His love remains. God’s love is not based on my performance. His love is based upon grace. The undeserved, unmerited favour of a merciful loving God.
Nothing I can do will make Him love me more.
Nothing I can do will make Him love me less.
When I’d left home that day, His smile had beamed down upon me. When I returned home an hour later – His smile followed me. When I reached home – there it shone, outside my front door; warm and bright like the warmth of a fire on a cold winter’s night.
And so I placed my question into his capable, caring hands. Had I done what He required of me as I helped my friend? I didn’t know. I only knew it was enough. Enough that I had sought Him as I helped her. Enough that my motives were good. Enough that even if I’d failed her – God could use any mistake for good. The truth is that I am human. I will not always get it right. What God requires of me is not that I get it perfect every time. But that I look to Him. And try to please and honour Him as best as I could.
If I stumble I can learn from it. If I fall, He can make things right again. Experience will teach me. His Spirit and His Word will guide me. As a parent I know that no matter what my child does – I am always on his side – cheering him on – on his team – wearing his colours – always at hand. How much more does God my Father cheer for me? After all, the death of Jesus settled it once and for all, many years ago didn't it?
He died so that you and I might live. The lifegiving love of God lavished over a world that didn’t deserve it. When I responded to that amazing love, He filled me. His love continues to fall afresh on me day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment.
And so today, I bask in my Father’s smile. I didn’t earn it and I never will. With a smile in my heart, I will enjoy His favour and enjoy His love till the end of time.