One time when I was about eight years old, I was outside with my dad when I heard a bird chirp a three-note melody: “tweet-tweet-tweet.”
I looked over at my dad and said, “That bird’s singing a song,” and then I imitated it with a whistle — “tweet-tweet-tweet.”
My dad’s face warmed; he gave a soft, kind smile; and his eyes twinkled.
“That’s right, Josh. That’s exactly the song he was making.”
I felt proud. I had imitated the bird well — but most importantly, my dad had noticed it. And whatever I saw in his eyes that day was so touching that I never forgot it. In fact, this morning I was standing at the sink doing the dishes when I heard the familiar springtime chirp: “tweet-tweet-tweet.”
In my mind’s eye, I saw my late-father’s smile emerge from the past and gaze into mine. Then I looked over and saw my eight-year-old daughter across the room reading a book and a surge of love rose up in me — not because she had done anything — simply because she’s mine.
That’s when I understood what was going on behind my dad’s twinkling eyes: He was full of unconditional approval. And with his gaze, his eyes had whispered a secret to me: There is a Father who always sees you this way.
Did your father ever look at you the way my father did when I whistled “tweet, tweet, tweet“? If not, it may be harder to imagine your heavenly Father looking at you with those kind eyes of approval.
Maybe you think you don’t deserve God’s approval. Here’s the problem with that way of thinking: It assumes you can earn it. But in God’s economy, no human effort will ever be enough to earn His unconditionally loving gaze. His Son Jesus already did that.
As Scripture tells us: “For our sake [God] made Him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, emphasis added).
Don’t miss that: Jesus became our sin on the cross and our sin died with Him. It’s gone, never coming back. And we also became the righteousness of God. His approval is certain. Yes, we will wrestle with sin on this side of heaven, but it doesn’t define us: The righteousness of Jesus defines now defines us.
So, love your neighbor, turn the other cheek, lift up a prayer, cuddle with your kids, whistle a tune. He loves it all. You are His child — He is your Dad. His eyes look upon you, His perfect, beloved one and when He sees you, He says, “I will never leave you or forsake you. I have given you the righteousness of my Son and I will forever be well-pleased with you” (Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 3:17).
Check out my book, “Confessions of a Happily Married Man,” which tells the story of how God has worked in the ordinary (and extraordinary) of my marriage — and how you can see the ways He’s working in yours too. If you’d like to receive a weekly, spam-free email about finding God in the ordinary of life, you can sign up here.