For many people, the thought of God as a father is shaped and coloured subconsciously by the relationship that they have/ had with their own fathers, biological or otherwise.
Growing up, my dad was the scariest person I knew. He was this tall, bearded man that towered over us little children, with a booming voice that filled the room when he spoke. Even my friends were afraid of him. When boys would call the landline, they’d hung up as soon as my dad picked up. Even the friendliest of hellos from my dad sounded scary. It did not help that my dad was also the disciplinarian in our home and a principled one at that! Although my dad was highly approachable, I rarely went to him with my flimsy problems, only the important ones. I would go to him to help me solve math problems or help with my English essays. Everything else, I talked to my mum about. Seeking and getting my dad’s approval was everything. I studied hard in school and tried to always outdo myself term after term because I knew my dad was pleased when my report card was good.
My dad sounds like most people’s image of God: a very tall man in the clouds with a voice that can fill a whole room or the whole earth, very principled, disciplines his children when they sin, can only be reached through prayer and in a specific manner (in church, prayer posture i.e. kneeling with hands clasped and eyes closed, etc.), seems loving or rather there are things in the bible about Him that say he’s loving but when we look at the relationship we have with him, love is not the first word that jumps out at us. For many people, myself included, the word father does not equate tenderness.
Fortunately, I have lived long enough to experience a shift in my relationship with my dad. While I continue to have the utmost respect I could have for another human being on this planet for my dad, he is no longer the scary man I used to know. His presence does not evoke fear in me. In fact, I would not mind blowing everyone off just to hang out with my dad. As I have gotten older, I have found he is so cool. He’s full of wisdom and experience and is very funny. I find myself reminiscing over our recent conversations and laughing to myself. When he calls to check on me, I feel so special and when he prays for me, I feel loved. His approval is still everything to me so knowing that he will read this post makes me slightly nervous (Hi daddy…!).
So it is with Our Father in Heaven. When one has not developed a relationship with him, it is hard to fathom the depth of love and the tenderness of God. He is this being that we send our requests to and if you have done enough good or you are “righteous” enough, our requests are granted. But as you begin to encounter the Father’s love, the first truth that becomes apparent is that you are loved.
Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! 1st John 3:1 BSB
This is not the kind of love that you have read in the bible countless times… For God so loved the world… and it just does not faze you… oh no no no! This is the love that washes over you; a love that draws you in and makes you feel special. You feel the love. You feel like you are a child of God. The second thing that changes is your image of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8: 15 BSB
When you encounter the Father’s love (I keep referring to the process of encountering the father’s love because many of us have head knowledge of this love but it has not been translated yet to heart knowledge), your image of God changes. There is no fear in approaching Him for perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). He is no longer this scary personality who is watching us and keeping records of our sin and standing in judgement of us and our actions. He becomes our Abba Father! His presence becomes everything. We just want to sit at his feet and glean from his wisdom. We are excited to share our lives; our joys and pain with him and look forward to his encouragement and comfort. So when we pray… Our Father who art in heaven… it is not just a phrase from a childhood prayer we learnt in Sunday school. We are actually calling the attention of our heavenly father and with anticipation of having him turn his attention towards us to hear from us.
Lord, I want to love you more than I’ve ever loved before. You’re so easy to adore, Lord I want to love you more.