“I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks.” (Hosea 11:4)

Those of us who have been loved and cared for by our parents have some understanding of what it’s like to receive love from God the Father. Yet we understand even more when we ourselves become parents. Jesus invites us to reflect on this when he asks: “What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? … How much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask?” (Luke 11:11, 13).

The moment a newborn baby is placed in her parents’ arms, the cou­ple feels overwhelming love. But as the child grows and develops her own priorities, her parents can iden­tify with the disappointment and frustration God expresses in today’s words from Hosea. “The more I called them, the farther they went from me.” How clear it is: what the child sees as an autocratic restric­tion is really a loving safeguard. And what we see as strict rules from a distant God really are bound­ary markers that keep us safe in his kingdom.

When a child of ours disregards our rules or advice, we may be tempted to react in anger and pun­ish him for defying us. But in our better moments, we know the best response is to find a suitable con­sequence that will help teach him to make better choices. This is how God treats his people. Ever faithful, he promises to restore them as soon as they come to their senses.

Spend some time today reflecting on the way you show love to your children, your students, or anyone who depends on you. Then recall how your heavenly Father has shown you love in the past. He is not done loving you! He longs to point out the path of an even fuller life. Ask him to help you see that path more clearly. Ask him, also, to show you how he himself is willing to walk with you on that path. And if you find that you’ve been following a differ­ent path, just turn around and come back. Your Father is always ready to welcome you back.

“Father, thank you for loving me so faithfully. Help me to discern your plan for me so that I can follow you wholeheartedly.”

Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16 Matthew 10:7-15