Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What wondrous love is this?

I normally don't find airplane travel to be a very spiritual experience. In fact roaring engines, jolting wheels, cramped space, long waits, stale air, precarious heights, motion sickness, and heart-thumping deceleration rates have made travel, in my book, a very survival-based exercise.

However, I was broken out of my most recent survival mode trance, in flight to Seattle, by a father who sat in the seat in front of me with his two twin sons who looked to be about three years old. His wife and third child sat in the adjacent row. His sons were sick with a cold and I think that some of my fellow passengers were annoyed by the fact that sick kids were sitting around them in a plane.

But, being accustomed to large families and third-graders, I didn't find the sniffling and dirty tissues to be a bother. What I did notice, however, was that this father had the most amazing expression on his face every time he looked at one of his sons. His sons were very affectionate toward him and behaved well for the entire 4-hour flight. From time to time, the sons would playfully pull the father's hat down over his face and the father would pop out and play along with them.

I was touched by the very evident love that was present in these relationships, and I think I would have just passed it by with a smile and gone back to sleep, were it not for a very simple image that I have not forgotten since. At some point along the flight, one of the sons fell asleep. You would think that the father would finally be happy to get some rest himself, but surprised, I looked up ahead of me to see the father just gazing at his son. It was the most wonderful expression of delight that is too hard to tell in words. It was as though the father thought that his son was the choicest, most beautiful object in the whole world. Somehow this image, still seared in my memory, spoke to me of a Heavenly Father that delighted greatly in his children (James 1).

If an earthly father's love is so great, how incredibly excellent is our Heavenly Father's love toward us (Matthew 7:11).