There can, of course, never be any comparison between my fathering skills and those of our Heavenly Father, so I’m not trying to draw any such parallel. That out of the way, I’ll point out a few lessons I’ve learned about God from my 26+ years of fatherhood.
1. I did the best I could raising my children, then I turned them loose on the world
God has blessed me with 3 children, and now he has thrown a son-in-law into the mix. With my 3 kids, I wish I could say I always did everything right as their dad, but that would be a dad-sized fib. Regardless, within my own constraints as a broken person living in a broken world, I did the best I could to raise them with all the love and patience I could muster. My wife and I tried to teach them and model for them good behavior, showing love and grace for others as much as we could.
But then there came various times in their lives as they grew up that we had to take them somewhere and leave them there, temporarily abandoning them to someone else’s care–a teacher, a friend’s mom, a coach, etc. This was a challenge for many reasons, not the least of which was that we hoped they would exhibit appropriate behavior, such as do the right thing even when we weren’t there to watch them and nudge them in that direction.
So, God pursues us and draws into his presence. As we grow in relationship with him, he guides us and stretches us and teaches us to do the right thing even when nobody is looking. I can imagine him holding his breath the first time we are doing something to serve him. “Oh, I hope he remembers to say thank you…” or (maybe more accurately) “Gosh, I hope he doesn’t screw this up…“
2. I long to help them when they struggle, but it’s usually best for them if I wait for them to ask for help
Anyone who has ever been a parent has surely experienced this. Although we didn’t usually cause the challenges they faced, our children nevertheless encountered many obstacles throughout their youth. As older, more experienced humans, we usually knew what to do to fix those situations for them. Thankfully, though, we usually managed to keep ourselves from doing so, knowing that if we always fixed everything for them, they wouldn’t know how to look after themselves when they reached adulthood.
Similarly, God usually hasn’t caused the messes we find ourselves in. And no matter how much we beg him to fix them for us, he most often gives us the tools we need to solve the problems ourselves (and/or blesses us with others to help us through them), enabling us to grow and hopefully make better decisions going forward. As the Apostle Paul put it:
3. I want to be in relationship with them because they like being around me, not because of what I can do for them
Although we all have our moments, I generally genuinely like being with these people I had a hand in creating and raising. One of the hardest things about being a parent, in my experience, has been teaching them and shaping them to prepare them to one day leave us. But my hope has always been that we would have a good enough relationship that they would still want to spend time with me occasionally. While I feel like I do have good relationships with them, I also feel like with two out of the three of them, the only time I really hear from them is when they need something from me. I am always glad to help them, but it still breaks my heart that this is the only time they reach out to me.
Hmm, so I wonder how God feels when the only time we talk to him is when we need something from him. What he has done for us and what he is to us are infinitely more than what I have done for my kids and what I am to them, so it’s easy to imagine that his heart breaks infinitely more than mine does when I feel like only a resource to my kids.
Although this is not in the Bible, the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks the question, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” (emphasis added)
Yes, I believe strongly that God wants us to enjoy him. Although we should still revere and respect him as the Powerful Creator of the Universe, we should also want to spend time with him because we enjoy him. There must be a reason why Jesus referred to God the Father using the intimate term, “Abba”, which in Aramaic was something akin to “Daddy.”
If enjoyment is not part of your relationship with God to the point where you want to spend time with him, then I suggest you ask him to help you find that with him.
4. I love them no matter what
Each of my kids and I have gone through some rough patches (some rougher than others). But at the end of it all, I still love them. While I may not always like them (or, more accurately, the things they do or say), I can’t imagine there is anything they could ever do that would make it so I don’t love them.
And if I–an imperfect man–feel this way about my kids, just imagine how our Perfect God feels about us, his children. Actually, we don’t have to imagine since he showed us: