If you imagine God looking at you, what expression does he have on his face?

This question was posed by a Bible study curriculum I did in college, and it has always stuck with me, convicting me of my inaccurate perception of my heavenly Father.

If I’m honest with myself, my default answer would be that God looks at me with frustration or disappointment, wondering why I can’t get my act together, why I can’t get a grip on that sin that just won’t go away. My perception of God is tied so closely to how well I think I’m fulfilling the law. To my insistence on thinking that I can earn God’s love. I fall short in so many ways, and Paul’s words in Romans hit way too close to home: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” I find myself projecting my frustrations with myself onto God, assuming that he must be just as irritated with me as I am. If the God of the universe intimately knows every dark corner of my heart, how could he look at me any other way?

Fortunately, that is where my view of God is deeply flawed. Even though God has every right to look at me with absolute disdain, “He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). He knows I am weak, gravitating toward self-destructive habits and wallowing in my sin. But because Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for me, the Father sees me clothed in the righteousness of his son and looks at me with an expression of unending love, complete acceptance, and unwavering mercy, rejoicing over his daughter who once was lost but now is found. And as Robert Capon eloquently writes:

Nobody, in other words—not the devil, not the world, not the flesh, not even ourselves—can take us away from the Love that will not let us go. We can, of course, squirm in his grip and despise his holding of us, and we can no doubt get ourselves into one hell of a mess by doing so. But if he is God the Word who both makes and reconciles us, there is no way—no way, literally, even in hell—that we will ever find ourselves anywhere else than in the very thick of both our creation and our reconciliation.

Our adoption is sealed by the blood of the Lamb, and we are marked as Christ’s own forever.