Every year before my kids go to camp, I buy a small journal for each child and write a note for each day of camp. In that way, they will have a message from me every day even if they don’t receive an email or card from me on that particular day. I started this tradition when my oldest child went to camp for the first time, not contemplating the time when four of them would go together for three weeks. The notes are short, but sweet. I tell them I’m proud of their kind natures and their ability to make friends; I remind them of activities I enjoy doing with them; I tout their accomplishments from the prior year; I encourage them to have confidence and believe in themselves. I knew my daughter Riley loved the notes and referred back to the journals on occasion. I wasn’t sure my boys cared at all until eight-year-old Alex told me he liked reading his book and looking at the stickers I’d included for decoration. Alex’s comment made me feel like my efforts to celebrate them were worth all the work to write the multitude of notes.
Growing up in church, I heard a lot about God’s judgment. I even recall imagery about God writing all of our transgressions in a book, waiting until we confessed our sins in order to wipe the slate clean (as if God would actually employ the human concept of record keeping in a book). Despite our collective belief in Jesus, the focus pointed to retribution, not grace. The concept that God only kept count of the bad things caused shame and anxiety for me considering my tendency to focus on the negative. I learned to fear God’s wrath and punishment. As a result, I struggled to view God as a loving parent when God was portrayed as a far-away entity who eagerly hoped to catch me doing or thinking something wrong.
As I’ve grown older and my faith has matured, I’ve come to understand that God is love and grace and mercy. And that while God wants us to do good and make moral choices, God is not gleefully lying in wait for us to screw up. Instead, God hopes we show others love in response to the love God has for us. If God had a book, I believe God’s notes to us would be uplifting and supportive, not a list of all the times we’ve messed up. What would God’s love notes to us be? Perhaps something like – “I was proud when you helped that stranger today” or “I enjoyed spending time with you when you prayed last night” or “Believe in yourself because I believe in you” or simply “Remember, I love you.”
God wants to have a relationship with us that is deep and strong and ever growing. God’s love is the foundation of that relationship. God will guide us back to Him when we do something wrong because God loves us, not because He wants to trap us. Let us believe that God is constantly sending love notes to us so that we better believe in our own goodness and then, with confidence, share God’s love with others.