My husband has been working a lot lately—juggling conference calls during the day, starting actual work in the evening. So I’ve been taking on most of our chores—washing the dishes after I make dinner, making the bed, doing and folding laundry during my lunch, getting the mail, unloading the dishwasher. Sometimes I’ve even brought lunch to his desk, or he wouldn’t have a chance to eat. While it can get tiresome, I know his busyness won’t last forever.
One night we met friends on their back porch for burgers and milkshakes. Under strands of twinkling lights, and in between swatting mosquitos and fanning humid air, they asked what we’d been up to, and I mentioned feeling as if I’d time-traveled to the 1950s. The four of us laughed, while I inwardly cringed about my semi-irrational fear of housework drowning my life goals. A week later it suddenly dawned on me that fewer chores had been nagging for my attention. I went looking for my husband, and when I found him reaching for the dirty pots in the sink, he insisted he didn’t want me doing all the housework.
Greasy residue and scum may not be romantic, but my husband’s dishwashing was a true act of love—an intentional pivot towards me, for me, and in direct response to my fears, whether he understood them or not. He could have easily, and reasonably, continued our new routine, heading back to his desk after supper, but he chose to serve me instead. For several days I basked in that moment, grateful for his care and attention, and then I had a realization. I longed for that kind of clear connection with God.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke each recorded instances when Jesus “felt compassion” for people and deliberately stopped to do something on their behalf.
Wasn’t that how it was for people who knew Jesus in the flesh? The ones who watched Him respond to their needs before their eyes? Scripture emphasizes this quality of Jesus often—His astute observations of people and responsiveness to them. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each recorded instances when Jesus “felt compassion” for people and deliberately stopped to do something on their behalf. This happened so often that it exhausted Jesus. One time, He was en route to get away from all those He’d been teaching and healing, but when He “went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34). Evidently, though our Savior was completely human and worn out, He still moved toward His sheep—as He does toward us.
I confess it’s hard for me to attribute that same agility to God the Father. I’ve often pictured Him as immovable—stalwart in His omnipotence and omniscience, dictating His will from above and watching us flail trying to figure it out. But if Jesus and His Father and the Spirit He left within us are truly one, then the sensitivity we see in Jesus resides in the Father, too.
We may not able to comprehend the Father’s openness towards us as clearly as that of Jesus toward the people He healed, but we can endeavor to see that level of purposeful tenderness in what God’s already done. For instance, how often do I consider that the trees just outside my window are an expression of God’s loving care? Their slow growth powered by the sun, their blossoms and seasonal shedding, and the oxygen they release that sustains our lungs—all of it and more is an expression of God’s tenderness toward us. Dr. Stanley once wrote that “Christ knows exactly where every star is because He hung each one in space and holds them all in the hollow of His hand. The universe moves according to His precise order … [He] maintains the earth’s orbit around the sun and keeps it spinning on its axis at just the right angle and speed to sustain life.” Not only was creation itself a testament of God’s love toward humanity, but so is the way He sustains it each day.
“Christ knows exactly where every star is because He hung each one in space and holds them all in the hollow of His hand.”
In his letter, James goes a step further, saying, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). On one hand, it seems reasonable to believe that God is good, and therefore good things come from Him. On the other hand, how many times have I brushed off something delightful as pure happenstance? If I believe that God is sovereign and He shares Jesus’ sensitivity, then I can attribute these small, wonderful gifts to Him as well.
Scripture says God is “intimately acquainted with all my ways,” and promises not only to know my needs but to respond to them as well (Psalm 139:3; Phil. 4:19). So who’s to say that wasn’t the Lord washing my dirty dishes, working through my husband’s hands? At the end of the day, God’s care is consistent—it’s my ability to perceive it that is not. Perhaps I can practice using a lens that is different than the one I use with friends and family—one that curiously searches for Him in every person and every thing. Maybe I won’t always find His love to be overt, but it will nonetheless be generously and carefully woven into the details of my daily living.
Illustration by Adam Cruft