I have not always felt loved, especially when I was growing up. I grew up with a father that was very difficult to please. I don’t think he did it intentionally, but his critical nature caused me to try to perform for his love. I eventually became an obsessive “people-pleaser” with an insatiable desire for attention and approval. I loved to play basketball and was the starting point guard during my junior and senior years of high school. I remember coming home one time after playing a great game—in which I made many assists and scored many points—thinking that my dad would praise me when we sat down for our post-game review over a meal at home. But after that game, like after so many others, my heart sank when there was no “Great game, Mike!” As always, Dad focused only on what I did wrong in the game, pointing out all the things I needed to improve for next time.
Years later, when my own son Jason was playing sports, I remember the Holy Spirit warning me against the dangers of becoming a performance father. Jason was not an exceptionally good baseball player, but he seemed to enjoy being on his little league team. I tried my best to be an encouraging dad in the stands, shouting out encouragements to the little guy. If the truth be told, I think Jason closed his eyes sometimes when he swung at pitches. So I wasn’t really expecting any heroics when, during one game, he went up to bat with the bases loaded. As the pitch came in, Jason swung as hard as he could at the pitch—I think with his eyes closed—and, much to his surprise and mine, connected with the ball and sent it flying deep into the outfield, between fielders. Little Jason chugged around the bases for a triple, scoring three runs ahead of him! I still remember the big smile on his face as he jumped up and down on the third base bag. When I put Jason to bed that night, I relived the baseball game with him. We talked about how cool it was for him to hit a triple that helped his team win the game. Then I felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit: Be careful, Mike—you don’t want to become a performance father like your dad was to you. I listened to the prompting and, after I told Jason how happy I was for him, reminded Jason that if he had gone up to the plate and struck out while doing his best, my love for him would remain the same.
One of the hardest biblical truths for me to accept in life has been that “God loves Mike.” I am slowly but surely beginning to believe I don’t have to earn God’s love because I already have it from the get go.
Question: Are you trying to perform for God’s love?
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! and that is what we are!”
I John 3:1