The cloudless Kentucky sky was powder blue, the sun was scorching hot, and the three feet of fresh water in our new above-ground pool in the backyard was cool and beckoning. The only thing standing between my energetic little 6-year body and that sparkling water was the bologna sandwich my mom said I had to eat before I could get back in. She was out in the backyard hanging up freshly laundered white towels on the clothesline as I wolfed down the sandwich and shot toward the back door, headed for the pool. Then I did something my father had told me a million times not to do. Instead of pressing on the door frame to push open the rickety old storm door, I pushed my hand right on its glass window pane. The glass gave way, and my small hand shot right through as shards of glass splintered everywhere, slicing my skinny wrist into ribbons of flesh. Bright red blood sprayed everywhere on the concrete stoop of our back porch.
The crash startled my mom, and she whipped around, clothespins in her mouth and a white towel still in her hand, beholding the gruesome sight of what had just happened. She ran over with the towel and quickly wrapped my wrist in it. The thirsty white towel soaked up the bright red blood as she led me through the house and out the front door toward the car. Halfway down the driveway, I looked up at her and asked a question, what seems now like quite a peculiar question, but to my 6-year-old mind, it was something I needed to know above anything else at the moment.
“Mommy, do you still love me?”
Compassion and bewilderment flitted across her face. “Yes, honey, I still love you…”
I don’t really remember what else she said because once I heard the words, “Yes, I still love you,” nothing else mattered.
In my small mind, I asked the question because I had broken a glass window, ruined one of her good towels, and was causing a major catastrophe. I wasn’t sure if she still loved me after all that. How little I understood about love. The value of windows and towels were the furthest thing from her mind right then. All she wanted was for her little boy to be alright.
A few stitches later, I was just fine, but I had learned three important lessons that day. 1. Never press on the glass to open a door. 2. Dad knows what he’s talking about. 3. Mom will love me no matter what I do.
Despite that lesson, and many others since, I still often suffer from small-minded thinking and an inability to grasp unconditional love when it comes to my Heavenly Father. How many times have I broken windows, ruined towels, or cut myself to shreds and then looked up at my Heavenly Father and doubtfully asked, “Do you still love me?”
“How could you love me…after I did that? Again? And again? And again? And again?…”
How little I still understand about God’s love. He’s not concerned about breaking glass and ruining towels. He’s concerned about us being alright. Like my earthly father, when he says, “Don’t do that,” He’s really saying, “Don’t hurt yourself.”
We expect His wrath. And as His children, we get His mercy. Yes, we may get some discipline, as I did from my father after the dust settled over that broken window pane. But we always get His love.
Many times, we expect God to zap us when we sin and mess up. But more and more, I’m discovering that sin is its own punishment. Get angry at someone over something? You just wasted a perfectly good day. Your loss. Withhold your tithes and offerings? You just turned down 10,000 percent interest (Matthew 19:29). Covet someone’s house or wife? You just bought yourself a dose of discontentment. Skip church to watch TV? You just replaced a blessing with a helping of worldly garbage. Your loss.
On and on I could go.
“Thou shalt not…” means “Don’t hurt yourself.”
“Thou shalt…” means “Help yourself to some happiness.”
And yet satan, the world, and sin have really done a number on me. I believe the lie. I believe sin can satisfy. And even more sadly, I believe that God doesn’t love me when I sin.
All my life, I’ve felt like I was such a disappointment to God.
How could He love me, when I keep going around breaking windows and ruining towels? Never learning from my mistakes, I keep pressing my hand through that glass pane over and over. And then doubting the Father’s love for me. Over. And over. And over. And over…
Eventually, I have the courage to look up at His face and ask, “Do you still love me?”
The answer always comes back, “Yes, of course, I still love you.”
I know, I know I’ve heard it a million times. I’ve heard the preachers say, “There’s nothing you can do to make God love you any more. And there’s nothing you can do to make Him love you any less.”
So I’m starting to get it, starting to KNOW Him, and know that His love is unconditional.
But still I wonder, “OK, you love me. I think I get that—sometimes. But do I ever make You smile?”
I want to do more than just be loved by virtue of the fact that I’m one of His children. I want to do more than avoid being a disappointment just because of His mercy and grace.
I want to make Him smile.
Does God ever smile?
Look up the word “smile” in the King James Bible, and you won’t find it. You will find it in the more modern Bible versions. But I guess what I really mean is I want to bring him pleasure and delight. You will find those words in the King James and virtually every version since. Because we can bring Him pleasure.
I recently looked up every Bible verse in the KJV that had the word “pleasure” in it. It was an interesting study, and one I recommend everyone try some time. I observed 51 things that bring Him pleasure, and I distilled them down to 10 categories. Here’s my list. I put a sample verse or two next to each one, although I could put many more verses next to most. If I had to sum it all up, I’d say:
Smile, God loves you. Love, and God smiles at you.
I hope you’ll do something to make God smile today. But just remember, if you break any windows, He still loves you. Because He bled first.
10 Things (in no particular order) We Can Do to Make God Smile
1. Keep His commands. (I John 3:22)
2. Have faith in Him/depend on Him and His mercy. (Hebrews 10:38; 11:6)
3. Share the Gospel. (I Corinthians 1:21)
4. Do good to others. (Hebrews 13:16; Micah 6:6-8)
5. Give Him glory and honor and respect/fear. (Revelation 4)
6. Prosper. (Psalm 35:27)
7. Serve Christ/lift Him up/be like Him. (Galatians 1:10)
8. Bless Israel. (Numbers 24:1)
9. Build His Kingdom, don’t serve this world. (1 Corinthians 7:32-33)
10. Walk with Him. (Hebrews 11:5)