Then take the hand of your once-favorite child, the child you raised to adulthood.
We will never turn our back to you; breathe life into our lungs so we can shout your name!
God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, come back! Smile your blessing smile: That will be our salvation. (Psalm 80:17-19, MSG)
In Psalm 80, Asaph questions God. You brought us, a tender young vine, from Egypt, and gave us good soil to grow. You protected us. What happened?!
Here's the answer: they grew up.
When an infant reaches for a hot pan to grab food (as my 8-month-old son did many years ago), we don't say, "That's hot. Don't touch." The first thing we do is keep them from burning those tender fingers--while saying, "That's hot, don't touch."
When the child is eight, we no longer feel compelled to grab their hands. We may yell a warning. Keep the handles from where a child can grab. But we hope our children have learned some basic safety rules.
Spiritually, our lives are much like that. Look at Israel as an infant, during the Exodus. God corrected them each and every time they did something wrong.
A little later, God used the cycle we see in Judges--of deliverance, sin, oppression, repentance, deliverance--to discipline His people.
Later yet, God sent them prophets to remind them of God's rules. Mentors, if you will. God did everything short of cutting out of the will to correct their behavior. When that didn't help, He allowed foreign nations to carry them away from the land.
God treats His children the same way today. He teaches us to walk--then lets go of our hands, always watching us, rejoicing in our successes, giving advice when requested, but--treating us as adult children. And, oh, yes, standing by, ready to perform spiritual CPR if necessary.
One of my favorite parts of The Shack (not condoning the whole book, but this one resonated with me): The character playing God the Father said, "That one was one of my favorite children." When questioned, He said, "They're all my favorite children."
So the once-favorite child is still the favorite child. Just raised to adulthood and given the freedom to learn and try on our own.
And the final stanza about "Smile your blessing smile" while beseeching God to come back? That refrain is repeated three times in Psalm 80. A three-peat screams "pay attention here!" So let's make that our prayer tonight.
We may want to climb onto God's lap as children, but He asks to stand at His side as adults.
Today's favorite verse--You're famous for helping; God, give us a break. Your reputation is on the line. (Psalm 79:8, MSG)