What My Grandson Taught Me about How God Sees Us

by | Dec 14, 2022 | Faith, Parenting Young Kids | 31 comments

God teaching through grandson about grace
Merchandise is Here!

Every now and then my grandkids give me a picture of God’s love for us.

Or rather, their parents do.

I don’t share about my grandkids very often, but last week, on a private Instagram page, Rebecca posted a series of pictures of my 3-year-old grandson Alex and his dad Connor (my son-in-law). I was so moved that I asked permission to talk about this, and they agreed!

Here’s Picture 1:

Grandson teaching me about God's grace

 And here’s Rebecca’s caption:

Connor has discovered that Alex finds calming down easier when he and daddy touch foreheads. They breathe together, calm down, and talk in hushed tones. He gets to watch Connor do deep breaths, and he naturally joins in. He loves feeling so connected to daddy.

See the second picture for his focus face.

Rebecca Lindenbach

 Here’s pic #2, with Alex’s “focus” face:

 

Alex focusing on calming down

So he needed to calm down, and his Daddy held his face, forehead to forehead, and helped him breathe. And Alex leaned right into it and was able to calm himself right down.

Isn’t that a beautiful picture of God?

How He knows that sometimes we’re overwhelmed. We can’t cope. Our heart is racing. We can’t see a way out.

But God doesn’t lecture us to get everything together. He doesn’t berate us for being upset or overwhelmed. He enters in it with us, and touches us.

That’s what Christmas is to me.

It’s God showing us that He isn’t just some Spirit in the Sky that is untouchable and unknowable. He walked the earth to show us what he was like. He touched people of all sorts–lepers, friends, outcast women. And through his death and resurrection, he lives again with us. He can embody us, we can embody him.

But this story has one more aspect to it that’s important.

Let me share with you the rest of Rebecca’s caption:

These were taken when we were asking him to eat food with refried beans in it so he needed emotional support.

Rebecca Lindenbach

That’s right. The indignity that was causing all the upset was that Alex was asked to eat refried beans.

One of the things I’m grateful for this Christmas is that the worst thing in the world that is happening to my grandson is that he is asked to eat refried beans.

I think of the orphans living in the largest slum in the world in Kenya; the children caught in sex trafficking all over the world; the smallest children in mica mines in India; the children of Ukraine living with missiles and little to no heat this winter.

Obviously there are much worse things that could be happening to Alex.

But when he started crying, Connor didn’t lecture him about that. He didn’t get angry at Alex for being upset. He didn’t say Alex was being silly. He held Alex and breathed on him and helped him calm down. He recognized that this was a big deal to Alex, and didn’t judge him for it. He just helped him.

Now, Alex still did have to eat the refried beans. But Connor understood that this was hard for him, and rather than berating him, he helped him calm down so he could eat them (relatively) happily.

What if God is really like that?

What if he isn’t angry at us for being upset over something that is relatively small? What if he understands and sympathizes with our disappointments, even if many have it far worse? What if he does not judge us for lack of faith if we’re upset? What if he doesn’t laugh at us with contempt when we’re doing something that is objectively silly? 

When I look at that picture of Alex and his dad, I think of God and me. It’s a picture that I will hold close to my heart. And I will close my eyes, and take a deep breath, and feel peace.

Yesterday on Facebook we got into several protracted conversations about spanking again here and here

For many, the point was that God needs to hurt us to teach us, and that we should be hurt.

I do believe that discipline can cause pain, because consequences of our actions can cause pain. But when I think about God, I don’t think about someone eager to hurt us to teach us. I think more of a father acting like Connor, helping us in the moment get up the strength to do the thing that’s hard for us to do. 

I used to believe that God was someone who was constantly disappointed in me and judging me and was thinking, “You know, Sheila, I love you, but I sure wish you were more….(fill in the blank).”

I used to believe that the bad things that happened to me were God disciplining me and punishing me.

Now I think that during those bad things, even if they were consequences for my own actions, he was standing beside me, holding my cheeks, and trying to help me breathe. And often I was turning away in shame. 

I don’t want to turn away anymore. 

I hope this helps some of you too.

What I learned about God from my grandson

When you think of God, do you think of the one who is disappointed in you and hurting you for your own good? Or do you think of something more like this picture of Connor and Alex? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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31 Comments

  1. Jo R

    Rebecca, thank you SO MUCH for allowing your mom to share these images, and, Sheila, thank you for your heartfelt words. I grew up with an alcoholic, perfectionist father, so guess what my idea of God is? Exactly. I’ve spent my entire Christian life (trusted Christ at 21, I’m now 57) waiting to get punished for not being perfect. I’ve punished myself for not being perfect.

    My yoke has never been easy, and my burden has never been light. Well-meaning people have heaped burdens on my back, without ever helping me see that I was carrying things that I had no business carrying. I thought the churches I attended (independent Bible churches) were focused on really following the Bible, but in hindsight, thanks to not attending church (even online) for almost three years now because of Covid, I finally understand that all those churches did was substitute their own set of laws for Moses’s. There was no grace—unless you lived by their rules. There was no mercy—you needed to repent of your pride and bitterness, because obviously only the “truly” repentant are sinless superhumans who had it all together and the rest of us were mere humans who may not even have been actually saved at all.

    Christian “pat” answers only sent me deeper into the pit. BUT! Between this site, Sarah McDugal, Patrick Weaver, Ngina Otiende, and a couple others, I’m realizing that no, I’m not actually crazy; yes, I actually have been gaslit, by my spiritual leaders and all those authors I read through the 90s and 00s, who in turn essentially encouraged me to gaslight myself; yes, God loves me. Me. Even though I’m not perfect, never have been, and never will be while I’m still dragging around this fallen body.

    If I’ve been passing through the stages of grief, and I think I have because I’ve realized I’ve lost three and a half decades of my life struggling through this quagmire, I’m just about out of the anger stage. I want to find a counselor who can help me finish processing all this and help me learn some things I never learned as a child. I’m expecting very little improvement, so maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

    Again, thanks to you both!

    Reply
    • Chris

      Jo R, I am praying for you as usual. Hope you are doing ok.

      I don’t ever recall doing the forehead thing with my dad but it works wonders with my son. But as he has gotten older, now we just touch our foreheads together briefly and both say the words “head butt”. It is one of our ways of connecting.

      Reply
      • Jo R

        Thank you, Chris. That’s extremely gracious of you, considering how much of a sniping b**** I’ve been generally and often to you particularly.

        My first appointment is a week from tomorrow, so a little present to myself (and, I guess, everybody else!). 🎄

        Reply
        • Sarah O

          This exchange made my day. This is the kind of brothers and sisters I want to be part of.

          Reply
    • Angharad

      I don’t know if this will help you, but I’ve found that when the Enemy is speaking those lies into my life (and that feeling that God doesn’t love you and that you can never be ‘good enough’ is a lie direct from the Devil), the only thing that helps is to counter it with something from the Bible that directly contradicts it. There’s a reason the Bible is described as being a sword, and why Jesus quoted from it when the Devil was tempting Him – it is a powerful weapon that speaks truth and light into our darkness.

      So I pick a few verses that meet the situation. When that little voice starts to tell me lies, I challenge it with “That’s not true, because the Bible says…” Over the years, I’ve found that nasty little voice has got quieter and quieter, as it gets drowned out by God’s amazing promises.

      I don’t know if it will help you, but maybe when you struggle with those feelings, go to Romans 8 or Ephesians 3 v 18-19, Psalms (5, 36) Romans 5v5, Ephesians 5v1, 1 John 3 v 1…and so many other places that tell us that God’s love for us is not dependent on who we are or what we do. He loves us because He loves us.

      And check out the lyrics from ‘So You Would Come’ – I found it so helpful when I was working through this.

      Nothing you can do

      Could make Him love you more

      And nothing that you’ve done

      Could make Him close the door

      Because of His great love

      He gave His only Son

      Ev’rything was done

      So you would come

      Reply
      • Jo R

        Thank you, Angharad. I’ve struggled to pray or even read the Bible for literally five or six years now, because I just find it so triggering. I’m still trying to disentangle bad, stilted teaching out of my brain, and find a translation that isn’t self-servingly misogynistic. 🙄🙄🙄

        I keep thinking I’ll try Connor’s technique of just reading Jesus’s words, but even those have been so twisted in my previous “Bible” churches that I know I’ll have a hard time actually READING as opposed to REMEMBERING, if that makes sense. So, just triggering, no matter what.

        I’ve lately been thinking about how Paul went to Arabia for three years and then spent fourteen years not going up to other believers in Jerusalem. It makes feel a little less bad about isolating myself to heal and relearn. Or really, just learn properly for the first time??? Dunno. Mainly trying to learn how to not beat myself up. 🥺🥺🥺

        Reply
        • Stefanie

          I relate to so much of what you said. I can’t read the Bible either right now, not even the gospels. So much condemnation comes out of Jesus’ mouth.

          The parable of the 10 virgins makes me paranoid. What does the oil represent? Do I have the oil? Am I going to be locked outside the gate on Judgment Day?

          How about the parable of the talents? Am I at least earning interest? Jesus says God will be happy with interest. Ok, I think I can at least earn interest.

          How about the wedding feast where the original guests don’t attend so God invites everyone else, but the one guy gets kicked out for not having wedding clothes. What do the wedding clothes represent? Righteousness?!? I don’t know. I hope I have my wedding clothes. I hope God doesn’t reject me.

          The sermon in the mount: being angry gets you condemned to hell. I fail at this standard EVERY DAY.

          Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord. ARE YOU KIDDING ME GOD?!? Like, way to make someone insecure.

          I feel like there’s a 50/50 chance I’m going to hell according to Jesus. 🫤 I feel like on my death bed I’m going to have to cross my fingers and hope for the best, lol. Good thing I don’t believe in hell anymore. Thanks Rob Bell, Thomas Talbott and Keith Giles for clearing that one up for me. (But actually as I type, I can feel the anxiety in my chest. I’m having a hard time breathing.)

          I think 4 decades of toxic religion leaves us with lots to heal from. I’m trying to heal from the idea that God has a good side and a bad side, and as long as you can stay on God’s good side you’ll be safe.

          Reply
          • Jo R

            Right there with you, Stefanie.

            Hugs if you want ’em.

          • Phil

            Oh Stefanie. I am so sorry for what you see. I have had a hard time in my life and I admit that I gave had my anger towards God. I am sorry that you see Jesus as condemning. You know what I see? Jesus warning. Why? Because he LOVES US! God has a good side and a bad side? You know what I see? God is battling the bad side for us and with us. Sure he can wipe it out when ever he feels like it. He chooses not. Not because he is bad but because he wants us to SEE! He wants us to see how much he loves us! My God LOVES me. My God is ONLY GOOD. I pray and hope that you can one day share that. God loves you Stefanie. God sent HIS ONLY SON TO DIE FOR YOU AND US. Why? BECAUSE HE LOVES YOU.

          • Melodie

            I read a book a few years back by Andrew Farley (?) I think. It blew my mind, the thought that the New Testament isn’t about starting in the book of Matthew but rather the Cross. I’ve heard hundreds of sermons of applying the Christian life using the gospels at a rule book. It was such a lightbulb moment that so many of those passages were pointing to the cross and our inability to keep the law rather then being a verse taken out of context as an attempt to “please” God. The whole point is the gospel not any attempt to try to be good enough. The good news is that he paid one time for all sin-past, present and future. It is finished.

        • Angharad

          Dear Jo R and Stefanie, I am so sad and so angry on behalf of both of you, that you have been so harmed by the lies you have been told. I wish I could undo the trauma, but I’m praying for healing for both of you so that you can rest secure in the overwhelming love that God has for you xxx

          Reply
    • Angie Murphy

      I have realized for awhile the idea of God not choosing to hurt us. But this post meant something different to me that I was struggling with. You talk about how abused women need to not simply pray, but take steps to keep safe. I realize how much I bought into the theology, especially for women, of just pray. I still believe God is big and powerful. But I don’t believe he performs miracles often. So I learned that my own actions, setting boundaries and standing up for myself, are what helped me. I feel empowered! So I’ve been trying to figure out this God and me relationship. And I think it’s like this post. In the hard times, God is right with me, breathing with me – empowering me to do what I need to do. Not doing it for me. Not leaving me on my own. A kind of symbiosis!

      Reply
  2. Jen

    This is awesome. My dad is an emotional anorexic who doesn’t see me. When I was a kid, his attempt to parent me was to tell me to not be so emotional. I grew up knowing that God was aware of me, but I could never imagine Him taking the time to sit with me and validate my emotions. I just always saw Him telling me that I was bad for feeling whatever I was feeling. To even be “too happy” was a potential sin. 51 years of trying not to have emotions yet having so many is sheer torture. And guess what I’ve realized?! Emotions make me human!! I’m normal! Go figure!
    I’m learning that God gave me emotions to help me – it’s part of the wisdom package He equipped me with!!

    The Church echoed my father and told me that it was wrong to feel, discern, and speak out about my emotional experiences. To have emotions was to be judgmental! Ha! What a load of crap!! God gave me emotions to protect me, and my childhood teachings disabled my God-given sensors!

    I am burying this picture in my heart and will use it to visualize God’s love for me whether or not I’m experiencing a hard emotion. He is close. He sees me. He cares about what I’m feeling, and He designed me to feel the way I do as I walk through this life. He made emotions on purpose.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s such a beautiful thought to end with, Jen. I’m glad this could minister to you today.

      Reply
    • Sedge by the Lakeshore

      What if emotions are the body’s way of trying to get a person to do something?

      I think that emotions come from the body. I think it’s things like adrenaline and a racing heart. Or dopamine. Or a relaxed state of being. Or tense muscles and gritted teeth.

      I think those all stem from emotions.

      I think anger spurs people to deal with an injustice. That happiness makes someone want things to stay the same. Sadness means wanting things to change.

      Reply
  3. Anonymous

    Definitely struggle often, feeling like God is an entity that “disciplines” me (because He disciplines those whom He loves) to make me feel small and worthless. I’ve heard that many people see in God the discipline of their fathers and the love of their mothers. And I’ve most always struggled to feel His love.

    My mom held me down as a teen to “work on” acne & blackheads on my face (using fingers, tweezers, sewing needles, & rubbing alcohol -usually fridays so any discoloration would lessen by Sunday church), even when I was crying out because it hurt (“Quit crying or I’ll give you something to really cry about!”), all while saying she was doing it “for my own good” because no one would love someone as ugly as me. (Ironically, she fed me fast food many nights.) I cannot think of a time in which she treated me lovingly. Each possibly positive interaction was manipulation in action.

    So yeah, it is hard to see the depth of God’s love when that is the “love” you grow up with. Add a husband who treated me as his personal prostitute and maid for decades and it’s hard to feel loved from any source, though I do feel loved by my friends and kid. But I recognize glimpses of His love now and then.

    I much prefer the image of God that you shared. I can actually see a loving Father who wants to care for me and forgive me.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry for the pain you’ve gone through, both with your mom and your husband. That’s just awful.

      I’m glad I could give you another picture to think of.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Eh, we all have junk that we go through, and things with my husband are improving slowly. I learned how *not* to parent based on my experiences, I realized how important love was since I missed out on it, and my son and I are better for the adjustments I made. 🙂

        I love being able to see glimpses of others’ parenting relationships and relationships with God because it helps fill in for me what I missed growing up so thank you for sharing this, and thanks to your daughter and SIL for being amazing parents and for sharing this example!

        Reply
  4. Emily Louis

    Yes!!! God is not angry with us or threatening to leave if we don’t calm down (And it’s not our responsibility to control God’s emotions with our behavior or “goodness”😏)This is such an important topic!!! Thank you for writing this article and starting the conversation.
    I do coaching to help women heal their relationship with God and confidently be themselves without fear and anxiety. If you ever want to have a conversation on the podcast about it, Sheila, I would be more than happy.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Emily! I will keep that in mind because I think this is a really important topic!

      Reply
      • Louis Emily

        Thanks Sheila! I’ll send your team an email. 🤍

        Reply
  5. Cynthia

    I love those pictures of Connor and Alex! Not only is it sweet and adorable, but Alex is learning so much to help him not just through the refried bean ordeal but through life.
    1. He is learning that his daddy loves him.
    2. He is learning that his daddy will always be there for him, even when he isn’t at his best and has an outburst.
    3. He is learning that having an outburst doesn’t cause his parents to panic and do whatever he demands, and that his parents are in control even when he feels like he isn’t.
    4. He is learning by example, that being an adult and a daddy means staying calm and in control and loving, even when someone might be out of control.
    5. He is learning tools to help him calm down and regain control.

    Those lessons will stay with him. He won’t be worried that he isn’t worthy of his parents’ love. He won’t be scared to go to them and admit his true feelings or actions. He won’t feel the need to lie to them or hide what is happening in his life. Even when they aren’t around, he will have his parents’ example to follow. He will have a blueprint of how to approach someone who may be hurting or in crisis. He will have an image of a father as someone who is strong and caring and devoted to his child, in control and gentle and available to guide a child the right way.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      What a great recap, Cynthia! I think #4 is so key–that parents can stay in control and be loving even when he isn’t. A lot of people did not experience our parents staying in control and always being loving. It’s such an important lesson for kids!

      Reply
    • Sedge by the Lakeshore

      Those sorts of lessons do stay with kids! It’s so much better than inflicting pain to try and make the child comply with the parent’s wishes. Whether it be spanking, threats, emotional abuse or what have you. It’s the trauma that stays in those cases.

      Reply
  6. Phil

    The word that came up for me here was beautiful. I concur with the others. Thank you Becca and Connor for allowing us to be a WITNESS. Beautiful moment. Thanks for sharing that. This drives me to want to be a better person and a better parent. I admit that I sometimes dont feel worthy of God and his mercy due to my own shortcomings. I do not view God as punishing but rather loving and wanting me to have a relationship with HIM. When you see something like these pictures you know God is present spreading his comfort and peace. BEAUTIFUL!

    Reply
  7. Angharad

    So many of our problems come from a misunderstanding of Proverbs 3 v 12. “The Lord disciplines (or corrects/reproves/warns/chastens depending on translation) the one He LOVES just as a father disciplines the son IN WHOM HE DELIGHTS.” (Capitals mine for emphasis) Check it out – whichever translation you use, the meaning is clear – this is all about God’s love for us.

    So often, we see discipline or correction as a bad thing, imposed on us by someone who loves to find fault. But if you read the whole of the sentence, it is so clear that this is a loving Father, nudging us back onto the right path. Alex had to eat his refried beans…that was discipline, but it was given in, through and with love. In an even greater way, our Heavenly Father’s discipline of us is an outflowing of His love for us.

    Reply
  8. Amanda

    I’m over here sobbing. This is utterly gorgeous. Thank you Sheila, Rebecca, Connor, Alex and God for giving me an unlooked for reminder of what real love and discipline looks like. It’s not fear mongering or shameful, it’s entering our feelings and waiting with us through them. So, so very grateful to you all for helping us dismantle our hurtful pasts. Praying that today everyone who reads this post will be filled with new life and love.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Amanda!

      Reply
  9. Kelly

    I just love this! Thank you Rebecca & Connor for allowing Sheila to share these precious moments!

    Reply
  10. Laura

    I just love this testimony of your grandson and his daddy! It made my afternoon.

    Reply
  11. Stefanie

    Thanks Sheila, Rebecca, Connor and Alex for shining a light in the darkness.

    Reply

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