I grew up with an amazing father. My dad enrolled in seminary when I was young, and worked the night shift at as a janitor, while attending seminary full time, in order to help make ends meet. Some of my earliest memories are of taking my dad dinner in the evenings and using the pool at the school where he worked. We would eat whatever we had packed for dinner, and then put on swim trunks and play “double dive,” which was really just him throwing me in the pool and me having to swim back to the side. It’s a wonder I didn’t drown.
My dad worked for years as a pastor, and what I appreciated about him was that he was the same man on stage as he was at home. There was no difference. What you saw was what you got. The real deal.
But as great a father as he was, for some reason I always struggled with the notion of God as a father. I’m not sure why. You would assume that my experience with my own father would have made this comparison a cinch. That I’d naturally gravitate to the idea of God as father.
I never really made the connection. I called God my father. I started prayers with “father God.” I knew about the trinity. Father. Son. Holy Spirit. I knew it in my head, but it never really made that eighteen inch journey to my heart.
Until I became a father.
I was scared to death to be a father. Not because I thought I’d forget my kids somewhere, or forget to put a diaper on, or make them choke on food or something. I was worried that I would do something that, years down the road, would make my kids say something negative about their father. That they would grow up with a story not like the one I did.
I’m convinced that God gives us children for a couple of reasons. The first is to teach us patience and selflessness. Anybody with kids can attest to this. You want to test your patience and realize how much of a selfish individual you are? Have kids. Guaranteed.
The second reason is one that I feel like took me awhile to understand. It was more of a subtle realization, rather than the slap in the face of the first one. I believe God gives us (specifically men) children to teach us what real fatherhood looks like. Regardless of what kind of father you had, we all have big shoes to fill. I think God said to himself, “the only way these men are going to have a real picture of fatherly love is if I make them fathers.”
And you know what, I think he was right. I love my wife, but I’ve never felt anything as incredible as watching my two beautiful little girls come into the world. I didn’t need to take pictures of it, or video tape it, because there is absolutely nothing that will replace that, or make me forget that moment. That moment I was given the greatest responsibility a man can ever be given. I became a father.
I pray that I can live up to this responsibility. It is the single most terrifying, yet most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I am learning every day what it means to lay down myself and love my children like my Heavenly Father loves. Earthly love will only get us so far. Sure, I love them. I would die for them. I would sacrifice anything to make them happy. But that isn’t enough. They need to know love like Jesus’ love. And I am absolutely convinced that my role is to show them that love.
If you are a father, that is your role. To demonstrate the love of Jesus to your kids. When they make you laugh, and when they make you so angry you want to punch a wall. Love them. Show them how important they are to you. Show them that nothing they will ever do will make their daddy stop loving them.
Because in the end, all we are doing is simply reflecting the fatherly love that we’ve been given.
Be their Abba.