I have been doing some contemplating lately about what it means to have God as a Father. My earthly father lived a 2.5-4.5 hour airplane ride away for 31 of the 33 years of my life, so trying to imagine what it is like to have a father around and involved on a day-to-day basis is challenging. Having never experienced the everyday relationship with a father makes it tough to wrap my mind around what a father even is. As a result, imagining God as a Father is much tougher.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, Alliyah, my husband and I went to see a movie. When we were leaving that movie, I had an overwhelming impression in my heart and mind (some people, myself included, would call this God speaking to them). What God said was, “I am going to show you what a father/daughter relationship looks like through Todd and Alliyah.” I was dissolved to tears when God spoke these words to me 8 years ago. It was a promise that God gave me. He promised to fill in the holes where my understanding was lacking. He gave me this promise, but the promise lay dormant for many years because I forgot to take notice. I forgot to watch and take note of Todd being a dad.
I have done some talking to God lately about my struggle to understand him as Father. God responded by using a conversation with a friend to remind me of the words that He spoke 8 years ago. God encouraged me to start watching Todd as a dad.
I thought I would share some of my observations: (Consequently, these are observations about God as our Father in Heaven)
He teaches us and helps us to become like Him. (From watching Todd pretend shave Joshua’s face)
“This is what the Lord says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go'” (Isaiah 48:17).
He sits and comforts us, allowing us to snuggle as close as we want when we are scared. (From watching my kids cuddle up close during a scary part of a movie)
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
He wants to spend time with us as we do the things we enjoy doing – the things that he created us to enjoy. (From watching Todd do crafts with Alliyah and play games with her)
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways…” (Psalm 139 – the whole Psalm speaks to the nearness of God – how he created us unique and special – and he is always there)
He wants to teach us to fight victoriously, valiantly, and bravely. (From watching Todd and Joshua run around the house sword fighting)
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).
He provides for our needs. (From watching Todd get breakfast and vitamins for my kids)
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
He takes us on adventures. (From watching Todd take my kids out to feed the horses and walk around our trails)
“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling” (Exodus 15:13).
His kids want to be close to Him. (From watching both my kids run from across the room to stand next to Todd during a time of prayer)
“But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds” (Psalm 73:28).
What He says matters more than other voices. (From a friend sharing with me that her dad told her she looked beautiful that day and that meant more than any other person on earth saying something like that)
“The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic” (Psalm 29:4).
These are just a few of my observations. If you are like me and you have a hard time wrapping your mind around what you might begin to expect in your relationship with God as the Father, there are examples all around you of fathers who reflect the heart of our Father in Heaven.
No earthly father is perfect. Each Dad out there has his own set of lies and insecurities that he is fighting to overcome. Some are more free (confident and built up in who they are) than others, but one thing is true: the devil is constantly telling men that they are no good. Too many men believe they do not have much to offer. The enemy lies to them, convincing them that they do not have what it takes to ______ (fill in the blank with just about anything). The lies come in different forms (and usually quite subtly), but the message is the same: “You are not good enough.” The enemy fears the strength of men, and so he looks to kill the strength and leadership they were meant to offer to the people in their lives. If a man (or person for that matter) thinks he will fail, it is really really difficult to even try.
We all have men in our lives who are struggling to be the men we know God created them to be. Whoever’s name and face just came to mind, I hope you will pray for him. I hope, with God’s help, you can offer him grace. I hope God can use you to encourage his strength and not be an instrument to further tear him down. I don’t know him, but I can tell you that he has done and is doing the best he can. I know that his “best” might be someone else’s worse, but remember: he is the way he is today for a reason. I do not mean for that to sound cliche. It is truth. We are all shaped by our experiences and the people who have influenced us. If we did not have someone there to help us process and respond well to those experiences and relationships, we probably have some obstacles to overcome. Some of us have more obstacles than others. Understanding another’s obstacles can aid us in having compassion toward that person rather than only responding from the hurt they may have caused.
The fact remains: if you have been hurt by him (whoever “he” is), he is probably not the healthy and free man God desires him to be.
I realize that I could launch into a whole lot of topics at this point – forgiveness topping the list. I am not going to go there.
I am not a counselor, but THE Counselor lives in me, and he lives in you, too, if you have chosen to follow Jesus. I believe He will offer the counsel needed as to how you are to move forward regarding any relationship in your life.
One piece of truth always comes to mind when dealing with relational conflict or turmoil.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
As far as it depends on YOU. We have no control over anyone but ourselves, therefore, relationships are tough. God wants us to live at peace with everyone, but we can not control how the other person treats us, how they prioritize, nor how healthy they are in their heart. All we can control is how WE interact with and respond to the people in our lives.
Jesus told us to seek to bless others, always – even the ones who have hurt us (Matthew 5:43-48). (Disclaimer: blessing someone does not mean we have to trust them or put ourselves in a situation where they have any emotional or physical control over us.) We offer good to others (deserving or not) because it is beautiful and there is something freeing and pure about doing so. Good stuff takes place in us when we offer good to others. This is how our Dad in heaven wants his children to act.
And our “Dad” parents well. He has given us the Bible as our guide. He offers clear expectations about how we should act, and he offers his love and forgiveness if/when we fall short of those standards. No earthly father can compare to the perfect love, care, and protection that come from our Father in Heaven. Whether we’ve had an awesome model for what it means to be a dad/have a dad or a less-than-awesome model, we all have a perfect Father. It is worth every moment spent getting to know this Dad, whose lap is big enough, even for us adults, to climb up onto his lap. Feel free to join me in watching any and all good dads we know in order to gain insight into the heart of the “best Dad ever”…AKA THE Father in heaven.