A few months ago, I wrote a post on what it was like for me personally to try and grow into Biblical masculinity when I never had a father around to look to for guidance. This time, I want to look at my experience on the revelation that God is the father of those who believe in Him.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with my story, or even that post I just mentioned, let me briefly set the stage for you. Twenty-four years and 21 days ago, I was born in a hospital in southern West Virginia. My dad had left sometime before I was born. To be honest I don’t really know the time-line of when he left, because I never wanted to talk about it. Regardless, it was sometime before I took my first breath. To this day I have never met, seen, nor heard from him. Stage set.
One of the purposes of God’s revelation to believers as Father, I think, has to do with his revelation of being personal. Granted, this is by no means the only purpose of it, but I think it follows. Certainly, it is over and against the impersonal god of Islam, and the distant god of Gnosticism, and so with other various pagan gods. This was always a strange idea to me- a relationship to God as his son (albeit an adopted son). Let’s face it. I had no idea what that meant or looked like, and if I were to be really honest, I still don’t. I’m much further along in my understanding of it, of course, but I still don’t really have any sort of relationship to look at and say “oh, this is an imperfect version pointing me to what God is telling me about Himself.”
It was, instead, a completely and utterly broken picture where God is trying to say “this is, in fact, the complete and total opposite of what I’m trying to tell you about myself.” That’s a whole lot easier to type out, and pretend to grasp and make others believe I’ve finally come to understand some great theological truth, than it is to actually grasp it and come away with some great theological truth.
In the last post, I pointed to a Psalm that I cling to. I didn’t always cling to it.
68.5Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
This, and many other text that point to God as a father, were not exactly the most comforting verses to come across. “Oh, so you’re just going to abandon me and leave me too, huh?” I would think. Then I would run across something absurd like “He will never leave us nor forsake us” (Hebrews 13.5). C’mon God, your revelation isn’t lining up with my experience!
I don’t think I have to spend a whole lot of time on that one. We can’t define revelation with our experience. I can’t define God’s fatherhood by the actions (or lack thereof) of my own dad. I know this. I’ve known this. That doesn’t make it any easier though. My dad is not perfect. God is. I will not be perfect when I’m a father either, but I know where to look to find out what I should strive for.
The Father as revealed through the Son is not a reflection of our imperfect biological fathers, but we should be a reflection of Him. Astounding, I know. I should be given an honorary Ph.D. for such a breakthrough idea. But seriously, I know the idea of it is relatively simple. It really is. I mean, it’s the same idea that permeates the rest of my thoughts. Conceptually, it’s as simple as 1+1=2. But, when you’re laying in your bed at night, alone in the darkness, and you’re fighting back tears (it’s not working of course, your eyes are pouring out like a set of Niagara Falls), wondering how your dad could just leave you, and all you want to do is finally hug him and tell you that you love him, and that the last 24 years didn’t matter anymore because he was there, and oh yeah, have you heard about Jesus because He died so that He could face the wrath of God in sinners’ places and let’s face it 24 years was long enough I don’t want to spend eternity without you… it’s a little hard to realize that we are eisegeting your idea of what a father is into the text. That, of course, is not an excuse. That doesn’t make it ok. It is a powerful reminder though, when we realize our error, that God actually is still there. He didn’t abandon us. He didn’t run away. All of his promises are still “yes” and “amen” through Jesus Christ.
All of this, of course, is simply the battle I’ve fought with trying to understand who God says He is. I can’t speak for all those who have lost or never meant their fathers. It is, though, what it is. And for now, I cling to the promise that He is a father to the fatherless, while I continue working out what exactly that means.