Happy Father’s Day to all of you fellow dads! One of the moments I enjoy the most is sharing the postings of new fathers to Facebook. The scores of pictures of that unique little baby, almost always wrapped around gushy, sometimes tearful, praises for the amazing woman who made you a father! I’m not making fun of you guys because I was exactly the same way on three wonderful days in 1974, 1976, and 1978. And, honestly, I have re-lived all of those emotions when our nine grandchildren were born, watching our sons (including Tim) become fathers!
The strangest thing happened to me after my father’s death twenty-five years ago this week. For a period of time after his death, I found myself talking to him in my prayers. It was not anything mystical or intentional. I would be talking to my Father in heaven and conversation would just merge into talking to my dad. I don’t really have a theology that supports praying to saints, so at first I was a little shocked and felt slightly guilty to realize what I was doing, but the phenomenon didn’t last long.
As you can tell, however, I’ve remembered this vividly for twenty-five years and have actually come to believe even more strongly that God has always intended for earthly fatherhood to be a first experience for both fathers and children of His relationship to us. If He has bound His Fatherhood and ours so closely together, then perhaps it is not so unique or unnatural for our hearts and minds to merge the two.
God as Father was a gift from Jesus His Son. Yes, there are a handful of references to “Israel my son” (Ex. 4:22) and David “my son” (2 Sam. 7:14), for instance, but such references are extraordinarily rare in the Old Testament. On the other hand, God is called Father over 160 times in just the Gospels. In his letters, Paul talks of the fatherhood of God over forty times. Peter and John also use the same word they had been taught to use by the Lord. That Jesus taught his followers to understand God as father is special and uniquely Christian.
I have a sweet story to tell you to illustrate this point.
Sherrylee and I were in north Africa in a predominantly Muslim country. One night we met for prayer with a group of Christians, and there was one young woman present who told us this story. She had been raised in a Muslim family, having no contact with Christians. One night, however, as a young girl, she had a dream about God. She dreamed that God appeared to her and told her that He was going to do something special for her. He was going to allow her to call him “Father.” She treasured this dream in her heart and in her own prayers and meditations, she secretly and silently called God “father,” thinking she was the only one with this privilege.
Years later, as a young woman she traveled to a western country where she made friends with another young woman who was a Christian. At some point they were talking about God and the young Christian woman said something about God, calling him “my Father ” The Muslim woman was shocked—not because her friend had blasphemed or disrespected Allah, but because she had used the Muslim girl’s most special, secret words as if they were her own. The Muslim girl asked her friend why she had called God father and thereby discovered the special relationship that all Christians have with God. It was not long until she too was adopted as His child, and her dream became reality.
And for those who have had abusive, troubled, unfaithful, sick fathers, I can only imagine that it is extremely difficult to relate to God as Father. Someday all that is broken in this world, including fatherhood, will be made right again. The first taste of this perfection is allowing God the Father to renew you, to re-birth you, to adopt you into His family. Your pain is real, but God’s willingness to be a loving Father to you is real too!
Today is Father’s Day! Our gathered family is going to grill and talk and watch the World Cup today in celebration. But first we are all going to spend time in praise and prayer to God, thanking Him for being our Father.
“Our Father, who is in heaven, holy is your name!”