God as a Dad
A few years back I went home to visit my parents. It was summertime and my Dad and I were sitting by the fire pit in our backyard. I was the kid who graduated early, left home a few months before I turned 18, and didn’t spend much time being “home” sick. The truth is by the time I left, that place didn't feel much like home at all. But you never tell that to you parents. You come in for a visit, put on a happy face and make it through the visit.
A few months before this trip I was having coffee with a friend who had recently gone through some pretty serious group therapy. This lead him to the revelation that a lot of the struggles he was having at work and in his marriage were subconsciously tied to this idea that the only time his Dad was ever proud of him was when he was involved in ministry. He had been doing ministry for years, often not even enjoying it at all. Which lead to personal depression, friction in his marriage, and eventually getting let go from his position. Why was he holding on to this thing so tightly? Because, in his memory, the only time his dad ever said, “son I’m proud of you” was after a random ministry event 10 years earlier.
After coming to this realization my friend decided he needed to confront his dad. Not in anger, just in honesty. He drove the six or so hours to his parents house, sat down with his father, and said, “Dad, this is how I have experienced you. whether you feel like it accurately describes you or not, I just need to share with you how i feel.”.
I’d like to tell you that there was a huge revelation moment between the two men. That there was lots of crying and some amazing testimony of redemption. But that’s not the case, at least not yet. What did happen was some honest discussion. And for my friend, freedom from the lie he had been holding on to for so long. Freedom to start a new chapter with his family, to pursue new work, and freedom from the pressure and fear of disappointing his father.
So sitting by the camp fire with my Dad, I began to tell him lovingly and honestly how I felt. I told him that growing up I experienced him as someone difficult to please. I expressed my frustrations with the fact that almost every compliment seemed to be braided with a humiliating correction. I told him that I appreciated him, showing me a good work ethic, and encouraging me to work with my head and not my hands, like he had. We talked about a lot of things. Some were hard, some were laughable. At the end of the conversation there was something in our relationship that wasn’t before. Mutual Respect, I had to let go of all my judgments and he saw me now as someone who stood up for himself.
Neither of us changed necessarily but our interaction changed. I realized my father did the best he could with the examples and life experience he had. It occurred to me that maybe when the bible talks about the sins of the father being passed on four generations it’s not always as spiritual as we make it. My Dad’s father had been an abusive alcoholic, my dad was distant and work driven, I have insecurities and hopefully by the time I have kids they will be free of the effects of that particular line of garbage in our family. But I’m sure they will have other issues, things they will need grace for, things that I’ll do wrong.
Many of us can relate to God as a “father” but it’s very difficult to engage him as a “dad”. I truly believe honesty is a big step in changing that dynamic. Go ahead. Tell God how you “experience” him. Tell him what you think, and why your frustrated and why you don’t feel loved. David did, heck! even Jesus felt abandoned by God on the cross.
Would a harsh, angry, judgmental, distant, and ambiguous God send his son, into a spiritual war-zone, to be captured, tortured, and murdered, in exchange for the lives of strangers who may or may not choose to engage Him in any way? The answer is in John Chapter 3.
The Father showed his love for the world, in this way, by sending his most prized possession out of perfection and into the dirt. So that the curse of sin could be lifted and we could have a loving, perfect, relationship with Him. The work of the cross is done. Jesus was dead, buried, and resurrected. God sees us as we should be, as we will be in eternity. There is no way to impress Him, no way earn His love or respect. We already have it. It’s ours, It is our inheritance. Do we sin? Yes. Must there be repentance? Yes. I’ve spent most of my life trying to perform for God. Trying to “do” enough to make him proud of me. I’m realizing now that's not how he works. I believe "repentance" is not a reaction to MY "badness" it is a response to HIS "goodness".
1 JOHN 3
1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.