My mother has always been surprised that I have good childhood memories of my father. He was almost never home, whereas she was home all the time. The exception was Sunday mornings, when after Mass he drove us to Lamoureaux Field for batting and fielding practice. No one had to tell him to: We played baseball on Sunday because it was a blast-for him. And it was always capped off with a visit to Beaudette's Apothecary for coffee "cabinets" (Rhode Island for milkshake) and nabs (Nabisco peanut butter crackers) on the high swivel stools at the bar. I don't remember that kind of detail in most of the rest of my life.
It raises the question of what it is to be a parent in loco parentis for our own heavenly Father. We usually think of proper Bible study as working in the direction from the Bible to life (Normative to Situational), but in the investigation at hand, moving from life to Bible proves as instructive. I consider those Sunday mornings, I weigh my mother's mathematical premises and conclusion, I note a counterintuitive outcome, and I ask the Scriptures to make sense of it. That is, did my father, for all his mistakes (and James 3:2 says we all make them), stumble on biblical gold unawares? And if so, O Lord, show me now that I may at least finish well.
The teaching was at once too subtle and too obvious, the weave of my net at once too tight and too loose to catch the thing. Feed, shelter, protect, train were the mandates I took from Holy Writ, and as a mother did better in some areas than others. These were more or less empirical and quantifiable, duties that could be discharged without the heart engaged, like a well-trained monkey.
What was too huge to be seen was the eternal love Triangle, three Persons savoring each other's company long before "the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy " (Job 38:7), a mutual delight that formed the matrix of the universe. Delight was before anything.
What was too small to be seen was the dropped hints that were never commands but not the less incumbent: "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness " (Zephaniah 3:17). "He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me" (Psalm 18:19); "For the Lord takes pleasure in His people " (Psalm 149:4). "You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight is in Her" (Isaiah 62:3-4).
Delight is the most useless of things. It doesn't get the house clean or the bills paid. Useless-like flowers. Like rainbows. Like Beethoven's Ninth.
Delight covers a multitude of parenting shortcomings. You may be too strict or too lenient and still come out all right, if you delight in your children. They will know it, for delight cannot be hidden. It finds excuse to ooze all over the place. It seeks a getaway vacation with the beloved when it's not convenient. It asks different questions than duty. Duty says, "I should." Delight says, "I want to." Duty is efficient. Delight tends to anything but.
What is less efficient than the story of mankind? If it were about efficiency, God would have wiped the plate clean and commenced with more promising subjects. The Bible in entirety is a love story, a tale of unquenchable delight-His for us, finally ours for Him. No sound rule of parenting is modeled in the sprint of an old man down the road to meet his prodigal. Only delight. No royal protocol is modeled in the dance of a half-naked king before his subjects and the Lord with all his might. Only delight. What is more useless than hymns?
"Let the mind for an instant consider the history of the Redeemer's love, and a thousand enchanting acts of affection will suggest themselves. . . . Our souls may well faint for joy . . . for our loving benefactor Jesus Christ our Lord, whose love is wonderful, passing the love of women" (C.H. Spurgeon).