This Sunday our community acknowledges fathers. I know for me, this is a day when – particularly my younger kids – are so excited to give me a craft project they made at school. With so many kids at the same primary school, I’ve got used to getting the same gift from each of my kids. As a well-practiced dad, I’ve also learnt to show enthusiasm and be gracious as I unwrap each piece of ‘art.’
Our Scriptures use the image of a father as one of the primary analogies to understand God. We pray to God “our Father” (Matt 6:9). God is the creator and “father” of all (1 Cor 8:6). Jesus refers to his relationship with God as being like that of a son to a father (John 1:14; 14:6). Of course, that’s not to overlook the images that describe God as a mother and in a maternal way, such as God as a nursing mother in Isaiah 49:15, a mother bear protecting her cubs in Hosea 13:8, a hen collecting her chicks under her wings in Matthew 23:37, etc. But, on this father’s day, it is good to reflect on the significance of God being “our father.”
The first is that it’s deeply relational. God is relationship, therefore God is love. And God invites us into that relationship through Jesus. The whole story of the Bible is that of the family of God, a family into which we are invited. When we speak of God being our father, we speak of intimacy, love, welcome, and acceptance.
Typically (although not exclusively) our fathers tend to have a greater impact in giving us a sense of security in the world and helping us to identify our place within the world. And God our father gives us these gifts to an even greater degree. We can be secure in God, no matter the storms of life we are facing. And we can be confident in our identity in Christ.
But also the image of God as father can be confronting. Too many of us have had broken and damaging relationships with our fathers and this has shaped our response to this analogy of God as our father. God is gracious, and that’s why He doesn’t only reveal himself through the image of a father but gives us other images to connect with Him through. But that doesn’t diminish the image that God wishes us to see when drawing the analogy of a father to us. Our heavenly father will not leave us or forsake us (Deut 31:8), he will not break us when we are at our most vulnerable (Isaiah 42:3), and he loves us with a generous, unconditional, and never-ending love (Jer 31:3). This is the kind of father we can connect with.
Image by Liane Metzler from Unsplash.