By Nicole Wick:

I was recently with a group of friends who were complaining about some of the fathers on their children’s little league teams. You know the type: they yell at the coach, argue with the umpire, and sometimes even push their child to the point of shame and degradation. They substitute anger, judgment, and condemnation for love, support, and encouragement.

I was thinking about this conversation the other day while at our nine-year-old’s soccer game. Our son has a mild form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome, which affects his social skills, muscle tone, and ability to keep up or follow complex directions. His soccer team is part of an autism inclusion league that gives all children, regardless of ability -- or disability -- a chance to play. I love this league.

While we were at his game, one of the children on his team caught my eye. This little boy is further on the autism spectrum than any of the other children. He isn’t verbal and often stands near the net, seemingly unaware of what is going on. During the game, he stood on one side of the field while children raced and kicked around him, and in his confusion he looked up and saw his father.

This guy wasn’t the yelling sport-dad my friends were talking about earlier.  This dad caught his son’s gaze and walked out on to the field while the ball was in play.  He then placed his hands on this little boy’s shoulders, and gently pointed him in the direction of the ball.

This dad never left his son’s side for the rest of the game. Sometimes he took his hands off of his son’s shoulders and let him assert his independence. Other times he stood behind him and physically turned him in the right direction. Throughout the entire game, he was there whispering words of encouragement. At one point he actually stopped the ball with his foot, held out his arms to block the other children, and let his son experience the accomplishment of sinking the ball into the net. I was almost in tears.

One of my favorite definitions of grace is one that I heard from Dr. Henry Cloud. He says that grace is the knowledge that God is for us, not against us. In other words, God is not on the sidelines of our lives yelling commands or scolding in shameful judgment. He is in it with us, standing in the net with His hands on our shoulders, waiting for us to sink one in. He is full of patience, love, and encouragement. He guides our every move and is ready to remove obstacles that get in our way.

God is for us, not against us.

The need for this message is clear.  We often see God through the same lens that we see our biological fathers through, and some of those lenses are incredibly distorted.  For instance, on Father’s Day, #mydadgetsnocallbecause was a trending topic on Twitter all day.  And if your dad didn’t get a call because [fill in the blank], my prayer is that you will know that your father is not a representation of God.

I pray that you would clearly see and experience the God of grace.  Our God is a God of hope; a God of second chances.

Our God -- our Father -- is for us, not against us.

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