I hold my daughter’s small hand in mine. Her skin is still soft, not yet weathered from life, her fingers little, but determined. We walk along together down the sidewalk stopping here and there to pick up a fallen leaf, look closely at a lady bug or run our fingers over a smooth rock. Some of the time her hand is in mine and sometimes she pulls it away.

I like it best when her hand is securely in mine. When we walk along together holding hands, I am able to catch her when she stumbles, which at her tender age is fairly often. With her hand in mine, a small stumble will cause her no pain because I am easily able to pull her up before her knees or hands hit the ground. We fall into step again and continue walking together. I pull her away from the street when she wanders too close to the edge. I simply like the feel of her sweet little hand in mine. It is a sign that she belongs to me. A symbol of our mutual affection. It says to the world that we have a close relationship.

My daughter is a little girl with a mind of her own and a strong will. She often does not want to be confined to my side. She will pull her hand away from mine and set out on her own. Without my hand to hold her up, she will scrape her knees and bruise her hands when she falls. I am close by to kiss her boo boos, hold her in my arms and comfort her, but the pain of the fall will last some time. The bandaids I put on only help so much. She still has to live with the consequences. Without her hand in mine I amĀ even more mindful of the danger of passing cars, always staying between my daughter and the street. If she were to run too far ahead or lag too far behind I would not be able to reach her in time. The result would be devastating to both of us. With her at a distance, I can only do so much. She is not safe from the perils that surround her. She has chosen to distance herself from me. The message she now sends is that she doesn’t need me or desire my presence.

How must our Father in heaven feel when we eagerly reach for His hand and draw close to His side? He must be filled with joy that we long for His presence, to belong to Him, to be known as His child. For He longs to call us His own. To gather us under His wings, close to His heart. Knowing the dangers that surround us, He eagerly desires to prevent us from heartache and pain.

How must He feel when we pull away in willful defiance? Oh, the pain that must sear his heart when we stubbornly pull our hand out of His. He knows the consequences we must bear and keenly feels the pain of separation. He knows we will fall, often. He knows the certain disaster that awaits us when we run from Him. He knew all along that we would willfully separate ourselves from Him in defiance.

As a loving parent would do anything to save their child, God too would go to the ultimate length to draw us back to Him. In an act both astonishingly sacrificial and abounding in love, He ran after us and drew us back from certain death even though the only way to do so was by the death of His own and only Son in our place. He remembers our sin and rebellion no more and once again we are drawn into relationship with Him. Once again, we are known as His children. Once again, we are holding hands with the Father.

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord when He delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.” Psalm 37:23-34 (ESV)