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From her bedroom window, Rebecca eyed the children playing in the snow enviously. How she longed to play with them!
“Now, Rebecca,” she remembered her father telling her that morning. “You can’t play in the snow today.”
“Why not, Father?” Rebecca had asked. Every day, the neighborhood children gathered at a park just behind Rebecca’s house.
“Just trust me, Rebecca. It’s not what’s best for you today,” her father had replied.
At the time, Rebecca had responded by kissing her father on his cheek and assuring him that she would stay inside and read. But now she was having second thoughts.
It is beautiful outside, she thought to herself. It was true: the sun was shining brilliantly. Why wouldn’t her father let her go play?
Why should she have to miss out on all the fun?
When a snowball exploded just outside her window, Rebecca decided she couldn’t stand it any longer. She simply had to go join the others!
Leaving her book on the table, Rebecca slipped outside. She tried to tell herself she was having a good time, but all the while her heart felt uncomfortable. She kept looking this way and that, fearful least her father see her.
After a few hours, Rebecca finally said her goodbyes and headed back towards the house. She wanted to be safely lodged in her room before her father came home.
Intent on getting to her room as quickly as possible, Rebecca didn’t see the mitten someone had left on the stairs until her foot slipped on it. Next thing she knew, she had fallen several stairs. To her horror, she noticed that she had hit her father’s favorite picture when she fell! A huge gash ran along the front of the picture.
Normally, Rebecca would have hurried immediately to her father after such a fall so he could doctor her up and make her feel better. But not this time. How could she face her father right now? She had disobeyed him and ruined his favorite picture! Biting her lips to keep from crying out, Rebecca grabbed the ruined picture and hobbled to her room.
For the remainder of the day, she lay in agony. Her body ached from the bruises she received on her fall. But her heart—ah, that ached worse of all! She felt certain that her father would no longer love her. She had messed up in the past, but surely this time she had gone too far! He would probably never want to speak to her again. How could he still love her?
She sobbed uncontrollably on her pillow. She had always been close to her father. They had played and studied together. They had laughed and cried together. But not now. No, she felt certain that all those wonderful times were over.
Who knows how long she would have lain thus had not her nanny come in to check on her. Rebecca’s nanny had a way about her of finding out exactly what was wrong and offering solid, wise counsel. Tonight was no exception.
“Rebecca, dear,” she said firmly, but gently. “You’ve been very wrong. But you must not continue in your wrongness by sitting here. You must go to your father with the broken picture in your hand and tell him everything.”
“Oh, but I can’t! I’m not worthy of His love!” Rebecca sobbed.
Her nanny sighed patiently. “You were no more worthy of it yesterday than today, child. Your father loves you because you’re his daughter, not because of anything you do or don’t do. Hasn’t he told you everyday since you were a little girl, ‘I love you’? Do you doubt his word? Do you really think his love is dependent on you?”
Doubt his word—that was an angle Rebecca had never thought of before. Maybe she should go see her father…yes, she must go see him, for if she didn’t, she’d never be able to rest.
So, still shaking and trembling with fear, Rebecca limped down the hall to the living room. She paused at the doorway. Her father was sitting in his favorite chair, just like he did every night. He looked up when she entered, and a smile radiating with love illuminated his face.
“Ah, you’ve come at last! I’ve been waiting. Come, sit here on my lap.” As he spoke, he opened his arms widely.
Rebecca couldn’t stand it. “Oh, you don’t understand, Father! You can’t love me anymore. I’ve been terribly wicked and-” Rebecca held up the picture frame for her father to see.
“I know, Rebecca—more than you think. I watched you go outside. I watched you fall and hit the picture frame. I saw it all.”
“You did?” Rebecca was flabbergasted. “But-but weren’t you at work?”
Her father shook his head. “I took the day off to spend some special time with you. That’s why I told you not to go outside to play. Ever since I saw you fall, I’ve been longing for you to come to me so I could bandage your wounds and help you. Won’t you come now?”
Rebecca could hardly believe her ears. Her father had planned to spend the afternoon with her…and she had missed it. Oh, what foolishness! Yet her father knew it all…and loved her anyway. Could it be? “But, Father, how can you love me now?”
Rebecca’s father smiled a smile she would never forget. “Rebecca, dear, I loved you before you were born. You’re my daughter. And I will always love you. Although sometimes your actions will result in consequences you could have avoided, nothing can ever separate you from my love. Now won’t you come and let me help you with those bruises?”
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Romans 8:35-37
“Come on, James, let’s go play in the snow!”
James looked up lethargically. His brother already had his snow bibs on and was energetically pulling boots over his feet.
“All right, I guess I’ll go. But I do wish it wasn’t so cold! I can’t wait for summer,” James grumbled.
For a brief moment, Eric felt tempted to complain about the cold too. But then the boys’ father walked into the room and offered to go sledding with them. One look at his father’s face wiped all thought of complaint from Eric’s mind. How could he complain when his father was with them? Besides, he also remembered how much he and his brother had longed for the cool weather last summer. He wasn’t going to complain about the cold! He was going to enjoy the season!
“It will be summer again soon enough,” he told James as they headed out the door. “Let’s enjoy winter while it’s here!”
Eric and James were keeping quite busy. Between finishing their schoolwork and all their other spring activities, they could hardly find any time for play or relaxation.
“Oh, man, I just wish things would slow down!” James moaned. “I do wish planting season would hurry up and end. I can’t wait to rest and relax in the summer.” James was just trying to survive the busy planting season.
Eric paused for a moment on his shovel to think about his brother’s words. “I’m sure father wouldn’t give us more work to do than we could handle,” he reflected. “He loves us so perfectly. This hard work must be just what we need. I’m going to choose to enjoy it!”
“But we can’t possibly get it all done!” James countered.
Eric knew James was right. They had more things to do than they could ever hope to finish. James’ words brought the weight of all that needed done pressing down on Eric’s shoulders. Then Eric remembered—it was his father’s problem to figure out how everything would get done! Eric was only responsible for doing each task with a full heart. The smile returned to Eric’s face. He didn’t have to carry the burden; he just needed to be diligent with the tasks his father had given him.
Spring eventually ended and summertime came. Now, instead of having too much to do, the boys seemed to have the opposite problem. Besides keeping the crops watered and the grass mowed, there wasn’t much to do.
The inactivity, coupled with the summer heat, was taxing on the boys. Yet both chose drastically different responses. As he had in the past, James chose to complain. He longed for something—anything—exciting to happen. And he longed for a relief from the heat!
Eric, however, again chose to rejoice in the season. Although he, like James, felt the heat, he knew autumn would come soon enough, bringing cooler temperatures. And while he liked excitement just as much as his brother, Eric chose to use the quiet summer season to spend extra special time with his father. He spent hours sitting at his father’s workbench listening—and learning. The more he sat there, the more confident he became that his father would give him just what he needed in each season of life. He had only to trust and delight.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
“But I don’t want to change,” Deborah repeated for what must have been the fifteenth time that afternoon. For years, Deborah had lived the life of a pauper. The open sky had been her shelter; the generosity of passerby’s her income. Now her father stood before her, offering her what he had offered her every day of her life—to give her a new life with him.
“But, Deborah, why would you insist on clinging to your pauper ways when I offer you a way of escape?”
Deborah could hear the pain in her father’s voice. Nevertheless, she stubbornly shook her head and replied, “I don’t want to change,” she repeated again. “I like the way things are.”
“But just last week, you complained about how you went to bed hungry. And don’t you remember how miserable life can be in the rain?”
Deborah paused as she contemplated these points. It was true. Life could get very miserable out on the streets. But give up the life she’d known? Oh, no, that she could never do! She would much rather go on complaining, even while ignoring the solution to her complaints.
“I can’t change, Father,” Deborah argued. “I’m too set in my ways. It’s just a hopeless case. I tried a few months back to give up this life, remember? And the very first day I was back on the streets! I just can’t help it!”
“Oh, but you could! I would help you! You could come live with me. I would give you other things to do besides aimlessly roaming the streets in this fashion. We could have so much fun together! Oh, do come!” Deborah’s father reached out his hand as if to invite her to join him in happiness.
Deborah shook her head. “I just can’t change,” she repeated.
“You can’t, or you won’t?” The question was made in a voice barely above a whisper. Deborah made no reply. She simply turned and walked down the street to continue her self-imposed miserable life.
Deborah’s father forced back the tears as he watched his daughter leave. He slowly turned and walked away. He would come back again tomorrow. Maybe then his daughter would be ready to accept his gift of love.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
General Bradford was definitely an unusual general. He was known far and wide for both his infinite patience and love as well as for His justice and wrath. His soldiers loved him dearly—and for good cause. His orders were always good, and he personally found a way to care for each of the soldiers who volunteered for his little band.
Michael had recently joined the general’s band, and was now quite anxious to prove himself a good soldier. His first task was to learn to march.
“The key to marching is to stay focused and to listen for my commands constantly,” the general explained. “See that distant horizon? Fasten your eyes fifteen degrees above the horizon line. Don’t let them wander to the circumstances or people around you. Keep your eyes focused above the horizon, and your ears tuned to my voice. You’ll find that many, many things will try to distract you.”
Michael couldn’t imagine anything distracting him from the horizon or the general’s voice. He’d soon find out, however, just how easily he could get distracted.
The first time Michael actually had the opportunity to march, he lifted his knees up nearly to his chest each step in an effort to look like a good marcher. He desperately wanted to do a good job to please the general!
The general shook his head and gently admonished the young private, “Don’t let your desire to show off distract you. True marching isn’t about lifting those knees in show; it’s about putting one step in front of the other in sync with my commands.”
Michael hung his head. He had allowed the thought of what others would think to distract him from really doing his job.
Michael tried again, this time not worrying about how he looked. Yet he had such a hard time keeping his eyes above the horizon! His eyes seemed to constantly wander to the things or people around him. Then he’d catch sight of the general and remember his command to look above the horizon. Would he ever learn?
“George,” Michael called reprovingly, “your step is a little fast, and wipe the grin off your face. And Scott, loosen up your arms and let them swing a little more natural and—”
“I said flight halt!”
Only after walking several paces in front of the rest of the troop did Michael finally hear the command. He didn’t think he could ever forget the general’s reproof, “Cadet, fall back in line. Keep your own eyes and ears attentive and let me take care of the others.”
Michael stepped back in line. He was beginning to realize that keeping focused would be a moment-by-moment battle. It was SO easy to get distracted!
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12 KJV
Ashley turned the beautiful stone over and over again in her hand. “Are you really giving this to me?” she whispered in awe and wonder. The thought that her father was giving her this priceless diamond seemed almost too much to comprehend.
“Yes, my darling daughter, I am giving you that diamond. Love and cherish it, and keep it ever in your thoughts.”
Ashley threw her arms around her father’s neck. How she loved him! She couldn’t imagine life without his love.
For the first several months after Ashley’s father gave her the diamond, she guarded the diamond as she would her own life. She spent hours gazing upon it, then went and told everyone she knew about her father’s marvelous love. Her heart of gratitude showed in everything she did. She was kind and loving toward others because her thoughts were focused on her father’s kindness to her. She was always eager to serve and praise her father because her thoughts were completely consumed with him.
I’d like to stop here and say that Ashley faithfully treasured her diamond for the rest of her life and continually lived in the same joy she had those firs few weeks. But I’m afraid that would not be true. Ever so gradually, Ashley began to become accustomed to the diamond she’d been given. Although the diamond itself never diminished in value one bit, she stopped thinking of it as much throughout her day. While she was still kind toward others and told others of her father’s love, she did so more from habit and duty than from gratitude and joy. Her words sounded like hollow recitations instead of heartfelt realities.
“Ashley, can I talk with you?” Ashley’s friend Eliza asked one afternoon.
“Of course,” Ashley replied, wondering what Eliza could want.
“The diamond your father gave you—can you describe it to me? And can you tell me what that diamond means to you?”
“Why, of course I can,” Ashley replied. She stumbled through a description that sounded strangely vague even to her.
Ashley’s encounter with Eliza awakened Ashley’s sleeping conscience. I have forgotten to gaze upon the diamond my father gave me! I’ve forgotten to let it bring me joy. Saddened at her folly, Ashley slowly walked upstairs and knocked on her father’s study.
One look at her father’s face showed Ashley that he already knew how she had neglected his treasure.
“Come, my dear, let’s go look at the diamond again together,” he said as he gently wiped her tears.
With that, Ashley’s father led her to the special case in which she kept her diamond. Ashley broke into a fresh set of tears when she saw the diamond. She had forgotten how beautifully it glittered and glistened! Her heart felt overwhelmed once again by the incredible gift that her father had given her.
“Oh, Father, please help me to never forget!” she whispered, looking up in love and admiration into her father’s face.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” Matthew 13:44