I met with a mom last week who's interested in commissioning a portrait of her first child, a two-year-old boy.
I asked her, like I ask all of the moms I meet, to talk about how having a child has made her experience love differently.
We laughed because she now understands how her parents felt. When we're kids, we roll our eyes at mom and dad and get upset with their over-protectiveness. But when you have kids of your own, you totally get why you're parents made you do things you didn't want to, or were constantly checking up on you.
But the most profound thing she said is how having a child helped her understand how Christ loves her. Being a mom makes you experience love in a radically different way. This new baby doesn't have to earn your love or acceptance. He or she has already has it fully, before they've ever done a thing.
We all want that love, that says I love you for who you are, not for your looks, or your money, or anything else you do. You are loved just because I love you.
That's why a parent's love is so special and the closest picture we have of God's love for his children.
So much of my life has been spent trying to earn the love and acceptance of others. I'd have it for a little while, and then I'd be crushed when I couldn't keep that person interested. I gradually came to experience God's love for me, and when I learned I didn't have to earn it or be someone I'm not to sustain it, it was a totally new experience for me.
I love helping parents express this love to their kids. Because of my own painful experiences, I want every child to know deep down that they are loved and valued unconditionally.
All parents want their kids to go into life feeling strong and confident, like their lives have purpose and value. They know they can go for their dreams, and if they fail it's OK because they have a safe place to land.
Each portrait I paint is an expression of who that child is and what their lives mean. It's a picture of God's love.