Recently I heard of a woman who died in tragic circumstances. Her father was devastated, both by her death and the way it happened. I was told, “He doted on her.” I’m ashamed to say my first response to those words was a mental “Wait a minute. She was in her fifties. Doesn’t doting go with cuddly new babies and cute toddlers?” But of course it doesn’t. It walks hand in hand with love and love is ageless.
The dictionary definition of dote says it is excessive or foolish love. How far does love go before it’s deemed excessive? As I understand it, love is ever expanding and never ending. If it’s not like that then it’s not love, it’s something else. Those looking on might deem love foolish, but never the one loving or the one being loved.
Right through the Gospels Jesus is constantly telling us: God dotes on you. He told through stories, modeled it in prayer, showed it to those who were looked upon as sinners. It’s the kind of love the father had for his prodigal son. It’s the kind of love that had Jesus calling God a loving “Daddy” instead of the more formal “Father”. It’s the kind of love that looked back longingly at Peter standing by the courtyard fire denying any knowledge of Jesus. It’s the kind of love that was able to say confidently, “Ask for what you need. It will be given to you in magnificent ways that you never even imagined.”
There’s something familial about doting. It implies warmth and pet names and close relationship. We need to be doted on. We need to feel it in the marrow of our being, not just as an intellectual fact. Over and over I’ve heard elderly people say that they look at their adult children and see the baby that once was, even as they rejoice in the lifetime of relationship in between. My father doted on my mother. His world circled around her. He didn’t always understand her but in his eyes she could do no wrong.
If only we could believe that God dotes on you and me like that.
God dotes on us like a grandmother whose brag book always has room for one more photo.
God dotes on us like a parent with great chunks missing out of their life awaiting the return of a missing son – or daughter.
God dotes on us like the pram-wheeling young women anticipating the delight of the recipient as they lay-by toys for Christmas at the mid-year sales.
God dotes on us like a mum who hurts when you hurt, right through from scraped knees to broken heart.
Some people’s life experiences make it difficult to see God like that. To experience God as someone who dotes on them, who loves them no matter what, who thinks they are just the best. Possibly it’s because doting parent- child relationships were not really the norm in the first half of the twentieth century. This has been reflected in an image of God that was more judgmental than loving. One of the gifts we can give children today is the kind of love that opens the way for them to know, without a doubt, that God, like their parents and grandparents, also dotes on them.