More than anything else, my view of God's love has been transformed by the experience of being a father. Being a father is by far the hardest thing I've ever done, but it is also the most rewarding. It is wild to experience such deep things for my kids. It blows my mind how I willingly give my life up for theirs in little ways every day. While waiting for pediatric check up, I read that the average child will have their diaper changed about 3700 times. This means that Shawna and I will have changed about 15000 diapers before it is said and done. Before our first child was born, I honestly never changed a diaper. But these kids belong to me. They are mind and I am theirs. All kids are special, but mine are different, at least to me. I wonder if this is how God sees me?
Since becoming a father--I'm still quite a novice at this--I've recorded experiences with my children that have revealed to me the truth about God's love. I have used the following words of Jesus as a launching point:
"Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" --Matthew 7:9-11
If I love my kids the way I do, how much more so does God. Each week during this series, I will share one story of an encounter with one of my kids that has revealed an aspect of God and has changed how I imagine and experience God.
Recently our oldest had to complete an "all about me poster" for school. On it he had to write what he likes to eat, draw a picture of his family and other things he likes. One question asked “What is your favorite thing to do?” He wrote, “Wrestle with dad.” Honestly I was blown away. I never knew how much he likes playing around like we often do. It touched my heart.
This made me think about God and whether or not he likes to have fun with me. Does he enjoy laughing? Small talk? Does he like just being with me? Does it touch his heart when I express that I want to be with him? How does it make him feel when I pray not out of duty but to simply be with him? Does God look at me through the eyes of an greatest love of a Father imaginable?
Every wrestling match I have with the kids I initiate, and they have never refused. I wonder if God initiates play with me. Am I too serious about my life to notice? Am I too worried about doing the 'right' things to see that God just wants to take a walk or just laugh about life?
This might sound sacrilegious, but if I want my kids to laugh and enjoy play and actually share that together, and I'm very weak and selfish, isn't it possible that our endlessly loving Father wants even more of that with us?
Darin Hufford, a father and pastor, wrote a book entitled The Misunderstood God where he reflected on his experience as a father and how it called into question much of what he had been taught about God in the church. His experience reveals that much that we have been taught about God our Father is actually worse than how fathers on earth would treat their children. He writes:
“Could you imagine me holding my nine-month-old son, Jude, in my arms and telling him that under no circumstances would I share my glory with him? What if I lovingly told him that if he disobeyed me again and again, I would pour gasoline on him and light him on fire? What kind of father would I be if I explained to him that he needed to give me 10 percent of everything he had or I would withdraw my had of protection from his life and allow the fires of hell to swallow him? What if I told one of my daughters that she was put here on this earth to be a servant and slave to me? Could you picture me telling my children that I’ve written everything about me down in a book and unless they read it everyday of their lives, they’ll never know me? What parent would purposely inject their child with a terrible disease as a punishment for disobedience? What father would turn his head away from his son or daughter the moment the child made a mistake?”
To take this even further, many theologians and pastors teach about a God who has determined from the beginning of time that some will be chosen to live with him and others are chosen to burn in hell. Somehow, they construe this as something that actually brings glory to God. What kind of Father is that? What kind of glory is due a being that calls himself "love" but destines people for demise in such a way that they have no choice in the matter. If that is the God of the Bible, then we should take out every reference to fatherhood therein and replace it with something like “all-powerful being.”
When I became a father, the active love I freely gave them and my desire to be with them made me realize that much that I had assumed about God and had been taught about God might be off base. While I know that I cannot let my ways of being a father define who God is as our Father, I can know this: that the love and goodness that I express to my children is only a partial insight into the perfect Fatherhood that he manifests toward us.