Some Things I’ve Learned About God After Becoming a Parent
by Ryan Miya
Before I begin, I want to start out with two quick caveats: (1) I have learned immeasurably much more about God through parenting than what I will be sharing with you now; more than any finite number of words could ever really say, and (2) please read this even if you are not a parent, because even though it may not make complete sense to you, I hope that it blesses you wherever you are at in your life journey.
It actually started for me even before formally becoming a parent. When Karen and I learned that we were expecting for the first time, we were understandably ecstatic. However, in our eyes, the timing was not “ideal” by our own meager standards since I was still a graduate student and we had already booked and bought non-refundable round trip airplane tickets, hiking gear, travel visas, and the associated accommodations for an amazing once-in-a-lifetime three-week trek through the New Zealand rainforests and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The problem was that in order to visit the lush New Zealand rainforests, it was mandatory for us to take anti-malaria medication up to a month prior to the trip, which unfortunately would have put our unborn son at great risk. While the trip and already spent funds ended up being completely wasted, the choice was easy. No trip for us. Ironically, the hiking gear we did purchase could not be returned and was eventually used by our unborn son ten years later when he took a trip to Australia without us, but that is a story for another time. This was an initial taste of sacrifice and unconditional love that soon followed.
As soon as our son was born, as well as after each of our next two daughters were born two and four years later respectively, I marveled each time about this overwhelming feeling of joy and love while holding them in my arms for the first time. I thought to myself, “how is it that I could love someone I just met so deeply?” While I didn’t understand, it really didn’t matter. This was the miracle of unconditional love.
I know that often times in our society, the more frequently something happens, the easier it is for us to suggest that it is not miraculous, nor from God. In my opinion, unconditional love is a miracle from God that happens all the time and everyday. As a scientist, I frequently think about scientific matters much too deeply and over-analyze things in order to “try and make sense” of them in my head. When someone does something that I wouldn’t necessarily think of doing myself, sometimes I ask myself why they would do it in order to try and sympathize and see it from their perspective as at least part of a justification for that behavior. Unconditional love throws that whole concept out the window. I’ll show you why.
When newborn children are born into this world (again, another miracle from God that happens everyday), they are completely dependent upon other people, like their parents, to sustain them. When a newborn poops or is hungry at 2:30AM, as much as parents may hope, pray, and wish that the child could miraculously change themselves or prepare their own meal, it just doesn’t happen. One (or both) of the parents will have to get up to change the diaper and feed the baby. As parents or caregivers of newborn children, it would be silly to ask why we do this even though we don’t receive any immediate tangible benefit or appreciation for the lack of sleep and getting up to care for little ones. It is because of the love that we have for our children, and the responsibility we have been given to care for them. As much as we may or may not be tempted, we would never say “This poop is way too big and messy for me to change you son, so you’ll have to take care of it yourself. Thanks! Good night!” We don’t even think twice about it and just do what we have to do, and usually as soon as possible. Our love and care for our children, even the smallest of them, is not conditional upon such frivolous things. This is just one example of countless sacrifices parents make, for some on an hourly basis, out of our unconditional love for them. Over time the sacrifices change, such as moving to a more expensive home in a better school district, or not taking promotional job opportunities so that we can spend daily family time with them. We make sacrifices such as these in order for our children to have the best opportunities for their futures. The love never stops. We cannot turn it off, no matter what. Unconditionally.
In the same way, early in my Christian walk, I asked myself why the all-knowing and infinitely powerful God who created the universe would choose to send His only son as a sacrifice for our sins enabling us to be with Him for all eternity. Honestly, I can say that I will never truly understand it, but I get to see glimpses of the magnitude of this sacrifice as a parent. I heard it illustrated in a unique example as follows:
Imagine one day you are working in your garden or walking along a
beautiful green forest path, and you happen to see a banana slug
crawling along the ground. You really are drawn to this bright
yellow creature, and are maybe even amazed and thankful that you
were fortunate enough not to accidentally step on it. Imagine that
somehow you really came to love this slug, so much so that you
may even consider taking it home with you. That’s possibly us, and
maybe as far as we would consider taking it. God went WAY
beyond this. He loved us so much that He sent His only son to
come down to earth, to become a banana slug himself, live among
us for a few years, and then have His slug son die for all the sins of
all the banana slugs of all time. He did all this just so that He could
be with us, the slugs, after this life was over for all eternity. That is
a crazy love. Unfathomable really.
Having and caring for children of my own has also helped me to better understand and appreciate the magnitude of the sacrifices made as examples of God’s true unconditional love
for us. A friend of mine once told me jokingly that while he wanted me to know he loves me very much as a brother in Christ, he would never offer to give his only son to die for me as a sacrifice for my sins. I was very appreciative and let him know in return that while the love was mutual, I too would not be offering ANY of my children for the same sacrifice as well anytime in forever (you’re welcome Cameron, Ashley, and Julia). Not only did God do this as a sacrifice for our sins, but He did it without us even asking Him to do it for us. I’ll even go another step further and suggest that the pain that God must have experienced as Jesus was dying on the cross must have been incomprehensible. For any parent I know, it would take all that we have not to put a stop to it immediately, and plead for us to take the place of our child if we were in such a predicament. The love that God demonstrated to us by holding back at that time is incredible to think about. It goes back to that unconditional love again. God not only loved us enough to endure it, but Jesus also loved us to go through with it (knowing it was well within his power to stop it at anytime). By the way, if God or Jesus did stop any of it, Christianity as we know it simply wouldn’t exist. The whole concept of why God made the sacrifices He did so we could be with Him does not make any logical sense no matter how you look at it (see the slug analogy above), and the only way to explain it is this miracle of unconditional eternal love. As it says in the book of Jeremiah, “we are like the clay in the potter’s hands” and as such we will never be able to fully comprehend the gravity or extent of this love that does not make any sense to us as mere mortals and fallible people. It’s beautifully perfect actually, in a God kind of a way.
After reading this, the world we live in may actually not have changed very much. Hopefully though, by the grace of God, your perspective of it has been tilted a little more toward Him and His amazing gift of unconditional, unexplainable, and crazy love that we have all been blessed and gifted with. Unconditional love is an amazing miracle and gift from God. It is free, without strings, will never change, and will always be with us. Embrace it; cherish it; share it; appreciate it; but most definitely DO NOT waste it.