Let’s start this blog on a personal note: My whole life changed in the moments my children were born. Nothing that came before mattered anymore and every day since they have each brought joy to my life. I cannot imagine a more fulfilling experience than knowing them, loving them and getting to know them better and better as they grow.
This coming Sunday in South Africa we will be celebrating Father’s Day in South Africa. Quite possibly you will be celebrating the same in your country since this is not an original South African idea. It is a day filled with cliched sayings about the importance of fatherhood, braais (bbq) and gifts of biltong, ties and socks. And it is a day that in general evoke more complex and often fewer positive thoughts and emotions than Mother’s Day.
Over the years in pastoral ministry, I have shared in so many people’s journey and as a result in their pain. So many times, any exploration of pain leads to childhood experiences and many of those times to a relationship with a dad. Fathers play a pivotal role in their children’s lives and when they mess up, the impact is lasting and painful. The most significant result in any pain stemming from our relationship with our dads is that it bears fruit in our relationship with our heavenly Father.
Just to be clear, I do not think dads have exclusive rights to messing up our childhoods. However, they do have the ability to be either spectacularly good or destructively hurtful.
In trying my best to be a good father, I have looked around me in earnest for good examples to follow. And often wondered how to help someone restore their relationship with their heavenly Father after negative experiences with their earthly dad. The most profound example I have found is in how God relates to his son, Jesus. I’m hoping that His example recorded in the Gospels will help you in your relationship with your children AND that it will help you in your relationship with your heavenly Father. My excitement in having this opportunity to share with you is great. I am literally typing faster – an unnatural thing for me! 😊
We know from reading the Gospels that Jesus loved spending time with his dad. He would spend a whole day ministering to thousands while healing the sick. Yet at the end of such a day, he would still climb a mountain to spend time alone with him. We could spend many pages on everything Jesus said about his dad and to his dad but here is the thing: We only have two examples of God speaking to his son. Only two examples in recorded history of what God did to be such a great father. Such a great father that you would want to emulate him. And such a great father that you would want a close and intimate relationship with him, gleaning as much as possible from him as your dad as you face your challenges.
Being a parent is a complex role and I think since God knew he would have only two opportunities to show us how he would pack these occasions with as much content as possible. Wouldn’t you?
Well, in fact, that is not what he did. He repeated himself!! Yes, you are reading right. He repeated himself!! He only had two opportunities and he did the same thing twice!!
In Matthew 3 we read about Jesus being baptised by John the Baptist. As he comes up out of the water the Holy Spirit descends on him:
And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Mat 3:17 NIV)
This was at the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Near the end we find him on a mountain with three of his disciples where he is transfigured before them:
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Mat 17:5 NIV)
Only two opportunities and he repeats himself. Might he think it very important?!?
Here are two applications. One for you as a parent and one for you as a child of God.
Your child needs your love, acceptance, approval, pleasure and affirmation more than anything else. They should hear and experience this from you over and over again, not just once or every now and then. This is the one thing God gives you as an example of parenting. Don’t neglect it!
When you strive to hear your heavenly Father’s voice, expect to hear him speak his love and approval. Many times, we expect to hear him tell us what to do or to correct us. Sometimes we think he will say things similar to what our earthly dads said. But we want to hear his authentic voice, discerning it from our own thoughts and other noise. On the evidence available to us, he mostly speaks his love, approval and pleasure. Listen for it!
If you are one of those honest and self-aware individuals (a rare breed), you might acknowledge that you may not be very pleasing to God. This means you have some kind of understanding of what you need to do or be to be pleasing to him and hear him speak those words. And you feel you are falling short or failing.
Whatever that understanding is, I think you are mistaken. God approves of you and takes pleasure in you purely and only because of what Jesus did on your behalf on the cross of Calvary. Who you are or will become and the extent of your obedience to him is also the result of that very same cross. It is important to understand that obedience is a fruit, not a root. It is the result of my relationship with God, not a condition of having a relationship with him.
In all you hear, I hope you will hear God’s voice more clearly this Father’s Day.
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