October 3, 2021

Secrets of the Heart

I could see the struggle in my daughter’s eyes as I waited for her response. It was a simple-sounding question, but the weight behind it was immense, and she knew it as well as I did. 

“Did you buy anything else when you went to the market to buy gum?”

On paper, an innocuous question. Shortly before asking it, however, I’d discovered a stash of candy wrappers and empty cookie packages under my daughter’s bed. Though these weren’t things I was opposed to her eating on occasion, there were other implications here besides her eating junk food. Namely: trust. She clearly knew she wasn’t supposed to have those items in her bedroom; otherwise, they wouldn’t have been stuffed in the corner under her bed. She also clearly knew that lying about them was the wrong choice; otherwise, there would be no hesitation in her answering my question.

A week or so prior, my children and a friend had been given permission to take their own few dollars and walk to the local market to buy gum. They returned with more than that, but somehow they’d managed to sneak their stashes into their rooms without us knowing. 

Until now. 

Now was the moment of truth. The moment of true character. My daughter could choose to admit her wrongdoing and accept the consequences, or she could take her chances that I hadn’t already discovered the truth and hope to get away with it.

Throughout the Bible we find many testaments to God’s omniscience: “He knows the secrets of the heart” (Ps. 44:21, NKJV)1; “For the word of God is living and active . . . discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12, ESV)2; “[God] knows everything” (1 John 3:20, NRSV)3; “Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, Lord, You know it all” (Ps. 139:4, NASB).4 And several times in the Gospels we read the phrase, “And Jesus, knowing their thoughts . . .” 

I’ve found that parenting offers me a small glimpse into the “Father” side of God. Such as the time and energy He puts into teaching me, growing me, shaping me—and the profound affection from which that flows. How many times has God waited for me to come to Him with something He already knew I needed? How long has He patiently waited for me to admit something to Him—to myself—that He always knew was true? 

I, too, knew the answer to the question I was asking, without my daughter saying a word. But she had to be given the opportunity to choose her path. She needed to learn the lesson I was trying to teach her. 

“What, then,” I ask myself in moments of difficult spiritual struggle, “is God trying to teach me?” Sometimes I’m stubborn and pretend I don’t know what He’s talking about. Sometimes I argue with Him. And sometimes I drop my gaze and sadly nod, admitting defeat and accepting His grace and love alongside the consequences of my choices. 

Which is why, when my daughter chose the high road and admitted the truth remorsefully, I extended the same grace and love to her—alongside the consequences. Because in the end, what matters most is that love is ever-present.

“I’ll be a father to him, and he’ll be a son to me. When he does wrong, I’ll discipline him in the usual ways, the pitfalls and obstacles of this mortal life. But I’ll never remove my gracious love from him” (2 Sam. 7:14, 15, Message).5

Becky St. Clair is a freelance writer living in California with her husband and three children. She has a decade of experience in public relations for the church, and currently writes and copy edits for various church entities around the world. 

1 Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 

2 Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 

3 Bible texts credited to NRSV are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission. 

4 Scripture quotations marked NASB are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved. 

5 Texts credited to Message are from The Message, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.