On July 4th I stepped into the jungle wilderness that had become my yard and began to engage in what I can accurately call one of my least favorite parts of adulthood. For several hours in the heat and dirt and humidity I did yard work. Having been in school almost constantly since the first week of March I can say that I understate the issue when I tell you that there were some things to do. But I did it, loathing every second, until things were somewhat under control.
Near the end of my agony, as I was cleaning up some brush and limbs that had been left in my wake throughout the afternoon (I like to call them casualties), my daughter walked out to survey the scene. She seemed pleased that things around her swing set were looking a little more presentable. Her assessment of the overall work caught me off guard though. After realizing how much different things had become, how much more inviting the yard was for a four year old little girl, and how disgusting daddy looked covered in sweat and dirt and bugs and blood…after all of these things registered she looked at me and asked, “Daddy you did all of this for me?”
I laughed a bit. Not because what she said was particularly funny, but because the truth of the matter was that a stronger motivation for me than satisfaction with the landscaping, was my neighbors’ proclivity to give me the stink-eye when they saw my yard. But I said, in a fatherly moment, “you could say that sweetheart.”
As she went on her way, back to the important business of being four years old on a sunny summer day, I began to think. I thought more about her perspective and WHY she said what she said, than WHAT she said.
She, at four, understood the role of a Father far better than I, at thirty-five, had the ability to. It never crossed her mind that daddy might be working like a rented mule because if his retired neighbor puts in a water-feature the pressure will drive daddy over the edge of sanity. She didn’t think that maybe mommy would like to walk into the backyard without feeling like she needs to begin harvesting something. She didn’t even think that maybe that’s just what grown ups do…they “work the land”. No, from her perspective, the reason daddy did all of this was probably for her. Why else would he do it?
I am theologically aware of most of the implications of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension. I can outline the book of John with bent toward the claims of Christ or the theaters that his proofs were based in or simply from the structure of the text. I have no problem reading complex and scholarly works by men far smarter than I about why God did all the things He did. But at the end of those wide and broad strokes of right doctrine and systematic theology and soteriological implications and pneumatalogical inferences and any other Christian vocabulary that can make us think we have found the end of the Gospel rainbow…at the end of it all is one remarkably simply truth: God did it all because He loves us. Don’t argue with me about Him doing what He does for His own glory, I agree. Don’t initiate dialogue that demands point/counter-point regarding fulfillment of prophecy and the necessary implications of His character, I am wholeheartedly on board. And to be honest there are times and places for those things, they are needed.
But, if being a father has taught me anything, it is this: sometimes you do things because you love your kids. Sometimes as kids ourselves, we should walk through the backdoor, out of the rooms stacked with our musty books, and our hallways lined with bronzed arrows slung by Calvinists and Armenians and Pentecostals and Cessationists throughout history. We should walk into the clearing, where there is space to breath and room to move. In that place we may just find perspective that thousands of pages can inform us of but can never inject us with. Out there we might find ourselves looking at Him and asking questions like, “did You do all of this for me?” To which I’m quite certain He’ll answer, “Well yes, I did.” Maybe that sounds far too simplistic. Maybe that seems to rob us of all the comfort we derive from our charts and graphs and medical reports. But maybe I’m not the one that said it first. Maybe He did:
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.