“You’re a good, good Father, It’s who You are… And I’m loved by You, It’s who I am.” -Pat Barrett & Tony Brown, Housefires
When you hear the words “Dad” or “Father,” what comes to mind? Do you think of happy, wonderful memories with your own Dad or do those words bring a painful, sharp sting? With about half of all marriages ending in divorce in America, many children are growing up in single parent homes. This picture usually consists of a mother working full-time and raising her children without a father in the home. Where are the fathers? At least in my generation, it seems like I know more people with divorced parents than with parents who are still married. What kind of impact does this have on children? How does this influence them as they grow into adulthood? How does this affect their relationship with God? These are uncomfortable questions that people need to wrestle with. However, I know this is not only an American problem. Many people around the world suffer from an absent or abusive father.
Father’s Day in the United States is always bittersweet. Some very fortunate families joyfully celebrate and some don’t even have a Dad to call. If you have a Dad to call, how strong is that relationship? Many children grow up with a father in their lives or even in the home, but they just can’t seem to connect well. Can you relate? The fathers of some have already passed away. These people shed quiet tears on Father’s Day because they would love to call and hear their Dad’s voice but can’t. Of those who have lost a father, how many wished there could have been a better relationship, but it never transpired? Many people carry around a “father wound,” and this impacts them every day in ways they usually don’t notice. This heartsickness brings all kinds of problems with it, such as abandonment, fear, disappointment, grief, bitterness, anger, addiction, depression, rejection, rebellion, insecurity and so on. Is there hope for healing?
Jesus came into the world to save us from our sin and reconcile us to the Father God. In fact, Jesus is the ONLY way to connect with the Father. In John 14:6-7, Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.” Jesus is the image of the Father God and he proclaimed that he and the Father are “one” (John 10:30). As we receive Jesus as our savior and get to know him more, we will also get to know the Father better. Is Jesus loving, kind and generous? The Father shares these qualities too! Is Jesus forgiving, patient and affectionate? The Father has these things in common with him also. Every wonderful trait Jesus has should also be attributed to the Father. Does this surprise you or do you already have a beautiful picture of the Father God?
Truthfully, people have a tendency to project their own ideas or experiences of their dad onto the Father God whether it’s a true quality of God or not. Many people think of the Father as angry, aloof, judgmental and distant. They think he is the old man with a white beard in the sky who is impossible to relate to. This image could not be further from the truth! Jesus is a man who most people can relate to, but when it comes to the Father, many are frightened to even think about him, let alone connect with him. This was where I was until I had a life changing encounter with the Father.
In the spring of 2014, my husband and I were leading an Alpha course at our church. At our weekend beach retreat, a friend of ours shared a special story that has completely changed my relationship with the Father. She told us to close our eyes and picture the Father God on his throne in heaven. There are two very large doors to the throne room that are closed. You are standing outside the doors. What do you do? Immediately I realized that I was terrified! I saw myself standing frozen in fear, unable to even open the doors.
Later that night, during our prayer and worship time, I saw a powerful vision. I saw myself again standing in front of those large double doors leading to the Father’s throne room. I suddenly threw the doors open and ran through the room toward the Father who was sitting on his throne. When I got to him, I jumped up on his lap and we threw our arms around each other and kissed one another. It was such a beautiful encounter that I wept as I felt my heart healing. Since we were in the middle of a worship time, I had not shared the vision with anyone. A while later, a group of people prayed for me. One of our friends said he saw me throwing open the doors and running and jumping up on the Father’s lap. He saw me throwing my arms around his neck and kissing one another. Of course, this was a miracle! How could I possibly hold back my tears as God proved the Father’s love to me! There was no way our friend could have known my vision unless the Holy Spirit showed it to him. From that moment on, my relationship with the Father has become more loving and special than I ever thought was possible! We have a good Father!
How do you see the Father God? Is he a joyful, loving Dad or is he an angry, distant Father? Psalm 68:5 says that he is “a father to the fatherless.” This is good news for those who have an absent or neglectful dad! Not only will God be a good Dad to you, but he also promises never to abandon you. Psalm 27:10 states this very clearly: “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” Because God knows we really struggle to believe this truth, it is stated repeatedly throughout the Bible. The New Testament writer of Hebrews also reminds us that “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’ ” (Hebrews 13:5). Whether we have a great dad or no dad, we can rest assured that our heavenly Dad will always be with us through all the joys and sorrows of life.
Why is our connection to and view of the Father God so important? We get so much of our identity from our fathers. Both mothers and fathers play vitally important roles in our growth and development into adulthood, but children tend to look to their fathers for approval. “Who am I” is a question everyone wonders at some point in their lives. Our own father’s answer to this question about us can define our entire lives. Fathers can build their children up and point out their talents and best qualities or they can tear them down and point out all their weaknesses and shortcomings. Children will internalize these messages into beliefs about who they are and their actions will flow from these beliefs. If a father is absent, children can feel like there is something defective about themselves that caused their father to leave regardless of the reality. If you’ve had a difficult relationship with your Dad or he’s gone, forgiveness is a must for your healing. I encourage you find a creative way to express your pain like writing a poem or letter. Even if you can’t send it, writing it recognizes the value of your heart and can facilitate healing.
Now, I want to take a moment to honor and thank all of you dads out there that love and sacrifice for your families. It’s a very difficult task, so well done! Thank you for being a shining example for the next generation of fathers. I believe your work and sacrifice for your families will be rewarded. You have spoken life and a positive identity over your kids that will set them on the right path in life. Your words and actions will leave a legacy of love to remember. Keep in mind, being a “good” father does not mean being a “perfect” father. We all struggle with sin and mistakes. Leading with humility and grace will make your family proud.
Just as our earthly fathers help shape how we see ourselves, so does our heavenly Father… but even more so! Our Father in heaven has created us and knows all of our best and worst qualities. Because he loves us unconditionally, he enjoys pointing out every good thing he sees about us. After all, when he looks at us, he sees his Beloved Son Jesus. The Apostle John said of Jesus, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13). The Father loves to build a positive identity in us that is not based upon what we do, but who he’s made us to be! As we reconnect with the Father through Jesus, we will discover who he is and who we are: A loving Father and his beloved children!