When I was growing up, I knew three important things about my father:
I knew he loved me–and the rest of our family–faithfully and truly.
I knew he loved God–He was a man of faith, prayer, integrity, and obedience to the Word.
I knew he would do anything to protect and provide for our family.
But I also knew that my Daddy wasn’t perfect. He was not the strongest man in the neighborhood; or the fastest, or richest, or most respected. He wasn’t the tallest, or most athletic. He wasn’t a leader in local politics or a chamber group or fraternal organization. He didn’t have a string of degrees, or a fleet of fancy cars. He didn’t even have a lot of hair, or perfect teeth. But he had a gentle laugh, a deep wisdom, and a hug that made me feel safe and precious. He had a enormous heart– one that was easily touched, but firmly committed. He was humble and kind; he was loyal and brave and joyful.
I was blessed to have such a Dad. I know people whose earthly fathers were distant, disapproving, absent, or even abusive. Earthly dads, even one like mine, are still human. They make mistakes and bad choices; they carry baggage from their own childhoods; they carry fears and failures; they fall short of our expectations, and their own hopes and dreams. And yet, we long to have a father we can trust; a father who won’t fail us, even in the little things; a father who will perfectly understand us, provide for our needs, and protect us. No matter how old we are, or how successful we may be, our need for a father’s love and approval never end.
Our mental and emotional picture of God is often shaped by our relationship with our earthly fathers. Especially if our father was abusive, it can be difficult to believe that God really loves us. After all, if God loves me, why did He give me an abusive Dad? If God can protect me, why did He allow me to go through a journey with Cancer? Or poverty? Our fallen world leads us into circumstances that cause us to doubt God’s goodness and His ability to redeem our broken past. But, while God sees our painful circumstances, He also sees things that we can’t. He sees the pain that our fathers feel in their own brokenness and inability to “fix” their own past. He sees the kind of growth and compassion that we can learn in our difficulties– lessons that we would not learn in ease and apathy.
God is a different kind of Father. He is eternally sovereign; the King of Kings, and the Creator of the Universe. There is no comparing Him with anyone else’s father– because He is the Ruler and Father of all! Yet, He wants a close loving relationship with each one of us– with me! With you! He is not just committed to doing His best to provide and protect some of us– He is fully capable of providing ALL our needs and protecting us against ALL enemies, including sin and death! For those who have grown up with a distant or abusive father, it can be difficult to hear of God as our “Father” and feel the kind of comfort and trust that we are meant to have. Yet God invites us into His very presence– ALL the time; ANYTIME. He is everything that the word “Father” was meant to be!
Someone once used the analogy of President John F. Kennedy to describe how we can relate to God as “Father.”. As President, JFK was arguably the most powerful man in the world– the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. At his command, soldiers, sailors, pilots, and even nuclear missiles, could be deployed. The stroke of his pen could sign bills into law, grant pardons, and appoint powerful positions. To enter the Oval Office and have an audience with the President was an honor reserved for rulers and generals and authorities– and his children.
There is a picture of JFK, Jr. as a small boy, peeking out of the Resolute Desk, as his father sits behind the desk conducting the business of the nation. The son had complete access to his father’s presence– access to the most powerful man on earth–his Daddy. He may not have fully understood what his father was doing, or even how important his father was– but he knew that he could spend time with his Dad.
Of course, President Kennedy was not God. He was fallible, and terribly mortal, as the nation learned to its grief. But the idea that God is distant and uncaring, or even vindictive and petty, is belied by the many Psalms and hymns and prayers throughout the ages. And the idea that God is just another “pal”, or “the man upstairs”–someone who loves us, but has no real power to command our obedience or rescue us from our enemies–is also belied by the many miracles and examples of His power in nature and in history. And unlike the exclusive nature of the relationship between JFK and his biological children, God invites ANYONE who calls on Him through His Son to be adopted as a son/daughter with the same intimate privilege of total access. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%201:11-13&version=HCSB (John 1:12)
So when I pray today, I’m not praying to my “Daddy” in any earthly sense. As much as my earthly Dad loved me, I am praying to someone who loves me more, and better, and perfectly. I am praying to the King of Kings, who also invites me to call him, “Abba”– “Dad.”