Here’s a question. When do you leave your parents behind? When you become a teenager? When you leave home? When you start a family of your own? When they die?
Our parents shape our lives – for better or worse. I’m not sure we ever lose the desire to please them. We look to them to tell us who we are – and who we could be.
But like us, they’re human. And sometimes they fail.
“Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later… that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life.” – Tom Wolfe
Freud thought that God was like a Father-figure in the sky: an invisible surrogate to make up for our disappointment with dad. But the bible says it’s the other way around. Having turned from the Original Father, all of us have fallen – parents and children alike. We are ungrateful kids with bad dads.
So, how do we get back to a true picture of Fatherhood? Well we don’t do the Freud thing. We work down from heaven and not up from earth. Whether they’ve been dead-beats or Father of the Year, our earthly dads are not the true Image of the Father.
Jesus repaints our picture of God. He reveals a Father in whose arms He has rested eternally. This Father is defined by giving. He gives His Son. He gives His Spirit. He gives Himself.
Here’s how Jesus describes Him:
“While the boy was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming, and was filled with loving pity and ran and embraced him and kissed him. “His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, and am not worthy of being called your son—’ “But his father said to the slaves, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. And a jeweled ring for his finger; and shoes! And kill the calf we have in the fattening pen. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has returned to life. He was lost and is found.’ So the party began”. (Luke 15:20-24)
When Jesus speaks of the ultimate Dad, He knows what He’s talking about. And He invites us to know His Father as ours.
In Doug Wilson’s book, Father Hunger, he reflects on the character of God the Father before painting this compelling picture of true fatherliness:
“Fathers give. Fathers protect. Fathers bestow. Fathers yearn and long for the good of their children. Fathers delight. Fathers sacrifice. Fathers are jovial and open-handed. Fathers create abundance, and if lean times come they take the leanest portion themselves and create a sense of gratitude and abundance for the rest. Fathers love birthdays and Christmas because it provides them with yet another excuse to give some more to the kids. When fathers say no, as good fathers do from time to time, it is only because they are giving a more subtle gift, one that is a bit more complicated than a cookie. They must also include among their gifts things like self-control and discipline and a work ethic, but they are giving these things, not taking something else away just for the sake of taking. Fathers are not looking for excuses to say no. Their default mode is not no.” Douglas Wilson, Father Hunger
I hope these words ring true in your experience. Or perhaps they cause you pain as compare them with your own dad. But however your earthly dads have measured up – there is a Father who is 100% like this. And in Jesus, He’s yours.