I grew up going to church and I would often hear people refer to God as ‘Heavenly Father’, ‘Loving Father’, ‘Great Father’, or as my buddy Chris Tomlin would coin it, a ‘Good Good Father’.
These aren’t just platitudes; Jesus refers to God as Father almost 200 times in the Gospels and over a hundred times in the Gospel of John alone. When Jesus teaches us to pray, he determines that our prayer should begin by addressing God as Father. In Paul’s letters to the churches, God is described as a Father over forty times. It occurs in blessings, doxologies, thanksgivings, prayers, exhortations and creeds. Needless to say, God as a Father is an important idea to grasp.
If you are not a father, there is only one frame of reference that we can use to relate to “the Fatherhood of God,” and that is from the perspective of children. Due to this underdeveloped perspective, often, when I would hear these different quips in church such as, “God is your father and loves you very much,” I did not have a complete understanding of what they meant. It lacked weight or gravity. God is a father that loves me? Ok. So does that mean he wants to hang out with me? Talk to me?
In my adolescent wisdom, my knowledge about the relationship between fathers and their children was very surface level. My father was good to his children. He played with us, disciplined us, and did his best to teach and encourage us, but through no fault of his own, I failed to understand how much he deeply loved us.
In my experience, I am inclined to believe that it is impossible as a child to truly understand the love that a father has for his children. It is not something that can be learned or achieved, but something cosmic and otherworldly, something that is implanted into our fiber.
Take for example, this metaphor that Jesus gives us in Matthew:
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
This always seemed like a confusing verse to me. Wow, what a dad… gives the kid some fish instead of a snake. Dad of the year, right?
Fatherhood is a topic that’s eluded me for years, and it wasn’t until I had my own personal experience with fatherhood that I got the smallest taste of what a father’s love and “giving good gifts” is truly like. As I write this, my wife is six and a half months pregnant with our first child, and over the last few months, we’ve been able to experience the ultrasound, get the first glimpse of our child and discover the gender.
This new exposure and reality changed so much for me.
When I saw my daughter for the first time, my heart exploded and all I could think about was her.
I already love her.
I want her to have everything.
I want to protect her.
I want to hold her.
I want to care for her.
I want so, so many good things for her, and I will give and do whatever it takes for her to have them.
In multiple occurrences, in both the old and new testament, God claims to have known us while in the womb, to have loved and known us, before we even physically enter the Earth. As I embark on my own journey of fatherhood I think I’m finally beginning to understand the gravity of God as ‘Father’ for my own life.
It’s not just a matter of breads and rocks, fish and snakes. It’s that a father’s heart burns for his children. A good father loves inexplicably and unconditionally; he wants only the best for his children. So what does this say about God the Father? Our Father’s heart led Him to love and experience unimaginable pain as He watched His own child suffer. He sacrificed all so that His children can have everything: His Kingdom and His presence forever and ever.
Chris is 32 going on 13. He enjoys hanging out with people, the game League of Legends and learning about new things. He’s a fortunate man, married to a wonderful wife and they’re expecting their first child, a girl, very soon.
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