About a week after Sam was born, I ran into one of my college professors, Glen Spann, who is also a pastor. I had just completed Seminary a few months prior to Sam’s arrival, so Dr. Spann, whom I had kept in touch with, was aware of my having gone through Seminary. After sharing congratulatory words, he said the following: “I’m going to pass along something to you that Dennis Kinlaw said to me when my first child was born. ‘Now your theological education begins!‘” Boy, has that ever rung true as I’ve learned things about God, myself, and human nature in the joyful journey of parenthood I have been blessed to enjoy thus far.

One of those moments happened about a year ago. I mentioned the encounter with my son on facebook when it happened, but the moment was so dear and I’ve gone back to reflect on the beauty of it several times, so wanted to share a little more about it here. One day my son Sam, who was 4 at the time, was playing in the living room floor. I was in the living room with him while Julianne, my daughter was getting a nap. In the midst of playing, Sam stopped what he was doing, stood up, looked at me and stretched out his hands and arms as far as he possibly could and said this: “Daddy, I love you *THIS* much!” In reply, I extended my arms to full length and said, “Sam, I love you *THIS* much!” He kept his arms extended, walked toward me and soon realized that his wingspan was much smaller than mine. He began to frown and get discouraged and said, “Aw, Daddy, I don’t love you as much as you love me.”

After a few moments of chuckling and getting a few tears in my eyes, I said, “Sam, this isn’t a contest. What matters to Daddy is that you love me as much as you can.” Then he came closer and tried to make his arms a little bit longer to match mine as much as possible.

Photo credit: venusstock.com

The challenge for us is that our love needs to keep up as our wingspan grows. Our capacity to love continues to grow as we get older, yet often we want to put a measure to it and keep more to ourselves. If my wingspan was 5 feet at the age of 10 and then 6 feet at the age of 20, then I ought to be continuing to extend my arms in recognizing that being a true disciple of Jesus means that I give all 6 feet of my wingspan in love to God and neighbor. As such, we are called continually to say to God, “I love you *THIS* much.” Growth in grace begets more growth. The more of God’s grace in us, means that we’re called and tasked to keep giving all, not that we give same when our wingspan was shorter.

When Sam came closer and tried to make his arms longer (out of desire to love me more), I realized that he was giving me a picture of what sanctification and discipleship is all about…our love for God and neighbor keeping up with the growing wingspan. Luke said it this way with regard to Jesus’ growth: “He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and people.”

Now, let’s see if we can make our arms longer!