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Lessons in Fatherhood

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I am in a reflective mood today and since I have been experiencing one of those frustrating times with my children began to think about what it means to be a child of God. I was reminded of an article I wrote a couple of years ago and decided to resurrect it, editing it and adding to it a little bit.

Being a parent is such a profound experience. My children make me want to laugh and cry. They will fill me with love at times and with frustration at other times. I have learned so much about myself and about human nature through being a parent. But that is not all. Parenthood has also taught me so much about God and why He refers to Himself as my Father.

God is patient. Parenthood is a constant battle of my patience. My children love to test me — pushing to see just how far they can go. They want to know exactly what obedience means and where the line is that distinguishes obedience from disobedience. If I need patience with my children, imagine the patience God requires to put up with me. I also like to push against the line or cross it altogether. Yet God patiently stays with me, never deserting me.

God loves. I love my children more than I can express. The Bible says that the measure of the deepest kind of love is that a man would lay down his life for one he loves. I would without hesitation trade my life for my children’s lives. Occasionally I will read of a parent who lost his life trying to save his child from a burning building, and I marvel at his courage, yet understand how it would be easier to die trying than to regret never attempting to save that child. God loves with a perfect love. God loved me even while I hated Him and while I did all I could to show Him how much I hated Him. But God did more than love me when I hated Him. He also suffered and died for me. What awesome love!

God loves equally. I love my children equally. I could never choose one over the other. They are both equally the apple of my eye. God also believes in equality. There is not another of His children in the world that God loves more than me and there is not another one He loves less than me.

God loves distinctly. While I love my children equally, I love each one in different ways. As I consider how I love my children I am reminded of Revelation 2:17. “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” Jesus loves us all equally, yet He loves each of us in a way that takes note of what distinguishes us from each other.

God teaches. Children are ridiculous. Only in a household containing children would you expect to hear commands like “don’t eat food that’s been in the toilet!” and “take that straw out of your sister’s nose!” Children have no common sense and have to learn so many lessons either by being told by their parents or by experiencing pain. And isn’t that the way I am? I can learn God’s ways from the Bible or from others who have already walked life’s pathway before me, but more often I prefer to learn by trying things out. I am then left to deal with the often-painful consequences of my actions.

God laughs. Children are hilarious. The things my kids say and the things they do keep me laughing. How can you help but laugh when your two-year old son imitate the pastor’s prayer by saying, “Dear God. Blah blah blah blah blah. Amen.” When my children laugh and play together, I laugh with them. Similarly God must laugh when He sees me blunder through life and must laugh with me when I am simply laughing out of the enjoyment life.

God cares. There are few things I care about more than my children and their well-being. I cry with my children — I feel what my children feel. When my daughter hurts herself, I feel her pain. When my son gets bullied, it makes me angry. God feels my pain and He burns with anger against those who come against me. He wants nothing but the best for me.

God provides. My children trust me to provide. When my son is hungry he asks for a snack. He never considers that perhaps it is actually my will to keep him hungry. He trusts that I can afford to buy him snacks. He has blind faith in my ability to provide. And so I can trust that not only can God provide, but also that it is His will and his desire to provide for me. “What father among you, if his son asks for[a] a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke Luke 11:10-13).

When we look at such a list, is it any wonder that God calls Himself my Father? Is it any wonder that He chooses to reveal Himself to us in such an intimate, familiar way?


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