Over Thanksgiving, I met my four-month old nephew for the first time. It was a delight: I was able to hold him while he was going to sleep, change his diaper, and the best of all—to make farting noises and watch him crack a big smile each time. (I am convinced that this is one of an uncle’s primary roles—along with roughhousing as nephews grow bigger.)
As I reflected on this time, it was interesting to notice that Paul didn’t have to do anything for me to delight in spending time with him. He couldn’t carry on a conversation, throw a football, or help me brainstorm a sermon idea. And yet I had a great time with him. In fact, pretty much all he could do was smile. But that’s the most rewarding thing to my brother, sister in law, or the rest of his relatives: When we made a silly face or funny noise, seeing him smile was an incomparable delight.
How easily do we forget that God delights in us before we can do anything? He knit us together in our mother’s womb (see Psalm 139:13), and He claims us as His own in Jesus. In Mark 1:11, the Father tells Jesus, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” And believing in Jesus, we have been claimed by God as His own beloved sons and daughters—before we have done anything. He delights in us, and He delights to see us simply smiling up at Him in response.
How easy to forget that we are not called to be so different from my nephew. In the busyness of doing things "for God", we often neglect to rest in His delight in us as His son or daughter whom He loves. Yes, Paul will grow up and be able to do more than smile, but one would hope that this mutual delight would remain at the core of his relationship with his parents and others who love him.
“The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17) Belonging to and following Jesus, this promise is ours to claim (see 2 Corinthians 1:20). We are called to grow in using our gifts to serve God and others, but must never forget this core truth that our Father delights in us before we can do anything. And perhaps what He desires from us right now is a simple smile in response to His delight in us.