I am not a father. I know that’s pretty obvious, but I say it because I am writing about how God compares His love for us to a father’s love. One of the most common names He is known by is, in fact, the Father. Among many other references, I Corinthians 8:6 says, “there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him…” and Ephesians 4:6 says there is “one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”
This term can be very helpful for those of us who had loving fathers, but it can be a stumbling block to those who did not. Even in the best of situations, none of us had a perfect father–every one of them failed us in some way (just as I will fail my own children in my attempt to be a perfect mother). However, no matter what type of father you had, unless you have done a lot to change it (or God has done a lot in you in that area), it’s likely your view of God looks a lot like your father, either the one who raised you or the one who did not.
I am extremely grateful that my own dad loved me dearly. I was his youngest, his little girl. Although his work consumed a lot of his life, he rarely missed one of my cross country or track meets from sixth grade through high school, and he even came to as many of my college races as he could (always accompanied by my mom). He cheered intensely for me, forever believing I could be the best or that I was already the best. In fact, he believed I could be or was the best in everything I did and told me so. His hugs were bear hugs. Although I resisted them in high school, disliking the smothering feeling, I understand them now as I fiercely hug my own kids, wanting to demonstrate the profound love I feel for them.
This love has given me a view of God the Father’s strong love for me, but of course, even my dad’s great love had a weakness, or at least I was always afraid of weakness there. I never gave my dad reason to be truly disappointed in me. I generally followed the rules and succeeded fairly well in what I did. I always wondered, though–what would happen if I quit running? What if I started getting bad grades? What if I fell away from God? Would my dad still love me with such a strong love? I watched him struggle with how to handle my older siblings when they went astray–all of them rebelled in some way. Would he be angry at me, too, if I did the same?
I believe now that he would have still loved me just the same no matter what I did. I saw how, later in his life, he showed in different ways how much he loved all of us, how he had always loved us through it all. However, he didn’t know how to express that love through discipline very well in my growing-up years, and I assumed I had to do well in order to continue winning his love. This transferred into my view of Father God.
Sure, God would love me when I do right, but what about when I do wrong? The problem is, I also understand I can’t hide anything from God. He knows my every thought. He knows my every action. I know that even my best actions and thoughts are tainted with sin. I know I can do nothing completely right with completely pure motives. Therefore, He can’t really love me.
Praise God that He is working this out of my system little by little, demonstrating through sweet, kind, personal ways how much He loves me even when I do wrong. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He knows we do wrong, but He loves us anyway with a love we can’t even imagine.
I think instead of imagining God as our own fathers, it might be better to imagine Him as our idea of the best father. What would the best father do when his children fight for the seventh time before lunch? The best father, in my view, would patiently train them to do better, disciplining them in love. What about when his daughter yells at him, calling him names? Will he still love her then? I believe the best father would want her to understand how important respect is, and he would probably be grieved by her choices, but yes, the best father would still love her, desiring her to choose the right way. What if his son takes half his money, runs away and spends it all on partying?
But wait, this story sounds familiar… I can tell you exactly what the best Father would do when that son starts heading back: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate” (Lk 15:20-24).
Our Father loves us more than we can imagine, more than we deserve. There’s nothing we can do but love Him in return!
How have you experienced God’s Father love lately? Comment below if you have a story to share.