It was one of those calls. You know, the kind every parent dreads. It was a little after midnight, exactly one month ago. I groped in the dark for my cell phone as it rang on my bedside nightstand.
It was Rachel.
She was crying.
Her apartment had just been broken into.
And I mean literally. Her window, smashed into pieces. Glass everywhere, even on top of the fluffy comforter she had been nestled under mere moments before.
She had screamed (I always knew that loud voice of hers would come in handy one day!) and had run out through the living room into her roommate’s room, where they locked the door and dialed 911, not knowing if an intruder was in the apartment. They spent another ten or so terrifying minutes on the phone with the dispatcher while they waited for the police to arrive, guns drawn, to clear the rooms.
Thankfully, Rachel and her two roommates were unharmed, and the perpetrator had fled into the night. But they were all understandably quite shaken. The window wasn’t the only thing broken that night. Their sense of well-being and security were also shattered.
Chris had been awakened by the concern in my voice as I talked to her on the phone. Before long, he was out of bed, dressed and out the door to make the 45-minute drive to Rachel’s college town. It was nearly 1 a.m. But it didn’t matter.
Because that’s just what a dad does.
He comforted the three rattled roomies and got them settled into a nearby hotel for (what was left of) the night. He then made the return trip back home.
The next evening it was my turn. I packed dinner and treats and drove down for an impromptu “sleepover,” despite being exhausted from the lack of sleep the night before.
Because that’s just what a mom does.
The girls dragged two of their mattresses out into the living room, where we watched a light-hearted movie and then (tried to) sleep. Despite receiving word that the police had arrested the guy responsible for the break-in, everyone was still a bit jumpy. But we made it through the night without further incident.
I found the timing of all of this intriguing. Just hours before Rachel’s midnight phone call, my Bible study group had listened to Beth Moore’s teaching, taken from 1 Thessalonians 2, on the parental heart of God. I felt God was now giving me a real-life illustration of the distinct ways He loves and parents His children.
God’s love is “paternal”:For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:10-11, NIV)
The Greek word for “comforting” is parakaleo, meaning “to call to the side of,” to aid, help. Just like Chris rushed to Rachel’s side in the middle of the night to comfort and help, God’s paternal love for us is strong, protective, and present. (In fact, Jesus uses this same Greek root when referring to the Holy Spirit! See John 14:16, 26.)
His love is also “maternal”:Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. (1 Thessalonians 2:7b-8, NIV)
“Nursing” in the Greek is nutritura, from which we get our word “nutrition.” (This helps explain why my instinctive response to this–and most any–situation was to bring FOOD!) Mothers are designed to nourish and nurture.…we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. (1 Thessalonians 2:7b, NLT)
“Caring for” literally means “to keep warm.” Rachel told me she slept like a baby the night I was there, the warmth of my body on the mattress next to hers. God’s maternal love for us is like this–warm, gentle, and nurturing.
Although we try to be good parents, Chris and I are far from perfect. We do love our girls and attempt to show it in the ways that come most naturally to us as a mother and a father. I trust Rachel felt our love in the midst of the trauma.
But how reassuring it is to know that in God we have The Perfect Parent. Maternal and paternal, the perfect blend of everything we need at any given time. He knows just what to do when His children are in distress. Or lonely. Or needy. His presence is constant. His love is perfect.Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18, NAS)
I am painfully aware that as a human parent I can only do so much. As I prepared to leave Rachel the morning after our slumber “party,” I prayed that God would cast out the fear that had entered uninvited through that shattered window and replace it with His perfect love. That He would fill that little apartment with the peace of His presence. That He would comfort and soothe every frayed nerve. That He would take this situation and use it for good.
And you know what? He is.
Because that’s just what God, our Perfect Parent, does.