Happy Father’s Day! It’s raining here in Minnesota and our church picnic has been moved inside for later. As I sat down and started writing this morning, considering people reading this in different places, I wondered what you might be thinking and feeling.
Some people have a really hard time thinking of God as their heavenly “Father”, because their experience of a father has been less than heavenly. The fathers in their lives have been absent or abusive, or untrustworthy, or controlling. So to call God “father” is not helpful. I get that. You may be more comfortable with an image of God as a mother, or a shepherd or a place of refuge. Great, go for it.
I understand too, that on Father’s Day there may be tangled hot mess of regret, anger, and confusion. About Dads and God and longing to feel loved in ways you haven’t experienced, and trying to forgive hurts you don’t deserve.
There are many dad’s who don’t live into the name well. Just like there are Christians who are hypocritical and mean-spirited and don’t live into the name well.
But not all dads disappoint all the time. I’ve been privileged to know many extraordinary dads throughout my family. My own dad, my grandfather, my brothers, and my husband… None of them perfect, but all of them remarkable men who each have modeled different godly characteristics that have enriched my understanding of God.
My own dad sacrificed job advancement to be home every night on the 5:40 commuter train from downtown Chicago to the suburb where we lived. He coached teams, and helped build homecoming floats, and taught us to fish and hammer and weed. He was so present, available, engaged, and dependable. I knew I could always count on him no matter what, and that has enhanced my ability to trust God as One who is present.
My Gramps was a man of faith who never had much, but always trusted God to provide. He was content and saw beauty in common things. He showed me that God is creative and faithful. Always.
My brother, “baby David”, always makes me smile. He is rock solid. He is a father who is patient beyond belief, and unconditionally loving. Because he knows he is a beloved child of God, he treats others as beloved children too. From him I am reassured that our God is infinitely patient and unshakable in His love for us.
My other brother, Cris, is the strong quiet, responsible one. He reminds me that even when God seems silent He’s not absent.
And John, father to Maggie and Katy…He shows us God’s wisdom and unflappability. He can take all the craziness the rest of us dish out. He’s the eye in the middle of the storm of life. He too is unbelievably patient.
All this may be true for me, but it’s not the point. Each of these dads have let their kids down at some point.
If we start with our experience to determine our theology of God we’ll end up with a less than perfect god we can’t worship, made in the image of human beings. The god we construct will always disappoint. Instead, what if we begin with the God of the Bible and celebrate His characteristics when we see them in men or women around us.
Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a human, that He should lie, not a human being that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?”
For more on God’s character take a look at Psalm 145!
So, on this Father’s Day let’s forgive the shortcomings of those who have let us down, affirm the godly character of those who have blessed us, and thank God that He is bigger than our relational experience.
Have you struggled with your image of God because of your experience? What have you learned?