I read this story over a week ago, and I have not stopped thinking about it.
"I'm one of thirteen children. One day when I was playing in the street of our hometown in Holland, I got thirsty and came into the pantry of our house for a glass of water. It was around noon and my father had just come home from work to have lunch. He was sitting at the kitchen table having a glass of beer with a neighbor. A door separated the kitchen from the pantry and my father didn't know I was there. The neighbor said to my father, 'Joe, there's something I've wanted to ask you for a long time, but if it's too personal, just forget I ever asked.'
"'What is your question?'
"'Well, you have thirteen children. Out of all of them, is there one that is your favorite, one you love more than all the others?'
"I had my ear pressed against the door hoping against hope it would be me. 'That's easy,' my father said. 'Sure there's one I love more than all the others. That's Mary, the twelve-year-old. She just got braces on her teeth and feels so awkward and embarrassed that she won't go out of the house anymore. Oh, but you asked about my favorite. That's my twenty-three-year-old, Peter. His fiancee just broke the engagement, and he is desolate. But the one I really love the most is little Michael. He's totally uncoordinated and terrible in any sport he tries to play. The other kids on the street make fun of him. But of course, the apple of my eye is Susan. Only twenty-four, living in her own apartment and developing a drinking problem. I cry for Susan. But I guess of all the kids ... ' and my father went on mentioning each of his thirteen children by name.'
"... What I learned was that the one my father loved most was the one who needed him most at that time. And that's the way the Father of Jesus is: He loves those most who need Him most, who rely on Him, depend on Him and trust Him."
You can read more here.
Most of the time I imagine God is tolerating my humanity. "He loves me, but ..." That's how almost every statement about God's love begins in my mind. He is simply putting up with my complaining, my petty problems and ordinary troubles. God is enduring me.
But this father loved his children for their weaknesses and awkwardness. He loved them not in spite of their problems, but because of them.
What if that's the way God looks at us?
The same day I read the above passage, my priest asked, "Does your image of God include a woman intent on finding something very valuable to her? A God who is just as focused on searching out the parts of your soul that are still lost to His voice?"
It didn't. Until now.
My image of God is shifting. I see an intentionality and passion for His children that stands in stark contrast to the theology I recently left. A father who is not putting up with his kids, but loves his children for their awkwardness and troubles. A woman frantically searching for something she's lost, something she needs, something of great worth to her.
She is earnestly searching for me.