On my desk sits a little framed picture that holds my heart—my four children.
Each one is like a deep well… and a fountain.
When I look at them now, I also see that picture on my desk.
I know that under all of their supposed failures and successes, no matter what they’ve done or haven’t done, there is this priceless treasure: the very breath of God.
In the picture, they range in age from about one to seven years old.
Toddlers can be “terrible” and still always delightful, for as yet, they are not aware of just how delightful, beautiful, and good they truly are.
But a day comes with each when a child becomes aware of their own beauty; they gain “knowledge of good and evil,” so instead of simply being good, they try to make themselves good, which ironically, can make them quite bad.
It’s the age at which children become trapped within themselves, more like a well and less like a fountain.
It’s the age at which they begin to doubt their parents love, the age at which they begin to compare and compete, the age at which they learn to secretly ask, “Daddy, do you love me as much as my sister or my brother?”
It’s strange, but although each of my children is very different, I think I love each one the same amount—with all I am and all I have.
And stranger still, if I “feel” more love for one than another at any particular time, it’s usually a time when that one has trapped themself in a pit of self-pity, shame, or despair.
And even stranger, it’s then that I most want to find them and sit with them there.
And strangest of all, when they share those dark pits, dungeons, and dry wells, I am most deeply grateful.
Then and there, I often witness a miracle: love that wells up from a broken heart in a dry place, like a fountain—a fountain that becomes a river—a river of life, our life.
Some would say that grace like that makes a man a bad father, for his children can sin believing that grace will abound all the more; they can nail the father’s heart to a tree and walk away. They don’t need to fear him, they say.
Strange, but in one very real sense, the four people in my picture need to fear me more than any other man alive; I won’t leave them alone. If they despise themselves, I will seek to find them, violate their own bad judgment, and make them believe my judgment—they are the pinnacle of God’s creation.
If you harm them, I will be incensed.
If they harm each other, I will grow even more incensed, but that rage will rip my heart in two, or four—for they are my heart.
BUT, if they love each other, I’m saved—the father is saved.
I’m a delinquent, highly imperfect father, but I cannot not love the people in that picture.
You may think, “I wish I was in a picture in a frame on my father’s desk.”
Well, you are.
In John four, at Jacob’s well which had been given to Joseph, Jesus meets a woman of Samaria and claims that he will give her “living water,” as if from behind a curtain in the Sanctuary of her soul, for the water will well up from inside her and turn her into a fountain.
“The Father is seeking such people to worship him,” says Jesus to this rejected, Samaritan woman.
He talks as if there is one Father. He has a picture on his desk. And she is in it.
Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. It was Judah that had the bright idea of selling his brother Joseph into slavery after his brothers had trapped him at the bottom of a dry well, somewhere near the very spot where Jesus now speaks to this woman—this woman, who is almost certainly a super-great granddaughter of Joseph.
The Jews from Judah despised the Samaritans for too many reasons to count, and yet 2000 years earlier they had been brothers… and Joseph had saved all Israel from famine just as Jesus was doing now.
Jesus not only acts as if she’s in the picture on the Father’s desk, he acts as if everyone is in the picture on the Father’s desk—not just Judah, but Joseph; not just Jacob, but Esau; not just Isaac, but Ishmael; not just Abel, but Cain; not just himself, but… you.
Jesus believes that there is “one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and through all” (Ephesians 4:6).
It’s true that in John 8, Jesus will soon say to some, “You are of your father the devil.” Yet he’s speaking to Jews, as in “Judah”—those from his own tribe. He also claims that they are a lie, for the devil is the “father of lies.” The Devil is not the father of people, but false people, people who believe they have created themselves and therefore cannot be little children in the picture on the Father’s desk.
Your false self is a dry well. And Christ will turn it into a fountain.
Jesus was actually in Joseph in the bottom of the well, and in Joseph saving all Israel.
In the place where she had believed the lie, the Samaritan woman now receives the Word and give’s birth to the Word.
It’s the Word of God in the bottom of your well that cries, “Abba Father.”
She drops her water jar and runs back to town advertising her failure, and our Lord’s Love—“Come see a man who told me all that I ever did.”
She is the world’s first evangelist.
I used to hate evangelism. I was trained to tell people that they weren’t in the picture, but if they trusted my word and made a choice, it would save them… from God.
The Gospel is that God saves you from yourself by sending His Word that you have been chosen from the foundation of the world; you are in a picture on our Father’s desk.
Now I love evangelism. I love sitting next to people on planes who cannot escape, people who think God doesn’t love them, people who think God would never forgive someone on their sixth marriage, sixth abortion, or sixth indictment, at the sixth hour on the sixth day. I love to tell them, “You are in a picture in a frame on our Father’s desk.”
If they want to know why I would believe such a thing, I tell them how Jesus once told me the reason for all I’d ever done; I tell them how, to me, he once revealed my sin.
Then I tell them how, to me, he revealed his Relentless Love—I tell them about Grace.
And when I do, I am less like a well, and more like a fountain.