“The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature.” -Abbé Prévost
I took this photo (on the right) just a few days after my daughter was born. My wife and I just had our first child last week, and what an amazing and wild journey it has been so far. Sitting up with her in the middle of the night, seeing her tiny fingers clutched around my big, clumsy thumb literally brought me to tears. “This must be a tiny measure of how God feels towards me,” I thought to myself as I cherished this precious moment. I am beginning to uncover fresh revelations about who God is as I step into this new role as a daddy.
One thought I had in the past few days is that you and I often forget the privilege that it is to be able to address God as “father.”
Stop and really think about that!
When Jesus was here, physically, on the earth He said, “Pray like this: Our Father in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9 NLT). Jesus not only gives us permission but rather, He instructs and lovingly commands us to refer to the creator of the universe with this term of familial connection. Jesus is saying, ‘Don’t communicate with God as if He is some distant, hard to reach, impersonal deity… use this word of relationship and intimacy when you speak to Him.’
In the book of John, alone, God is referred to (namely by Jesus) as “father” over 130 times (134 according to the KJV). This is very significant- we must pay attention! The enemy has attempted to distort and corrupt this important title through the failures of earthly fathers throughout history. Therefore, any mention of this word can lead some men and women to shutter or experience paralyzing fear and severe anxiety. Without healing and a renewed understanding of God, this anxiety can be enough to lead people to distance themselves totally from Him, wanting nothing to do with anyone or anything associated to the word. This distance from God can create immense insecurity, and lead to isolation, poor mental health, and countless other devastating effects.
This quote from James McDonald sums it up well: “I love my children, and they love me. I love my father, and I have always known his love. But hear this: No human can fill the Father hole in the human heart. A good father helps, but our Father hunger can only be satisfied in God Himself.”
How, then, can this role and title be redeemed? And by it’s redemption, how can calling on the name “father” lead people into a greater understanding of who they are, thus revealing their intended identity? How can hope be restored to and healing be experienced for those who were negatively impacted by the choices of broken, hurting, ill-equipped dads? This is a call to all fathers, fathers of fathers, and potential fathers! We must study and practice the example we have been given in the word to resurrect the parts of this role that have been swallowed up by death. We must reveal the heart of the Father in the way that we treat and interact with all of God’s children! We must point our children to the only Father who can satisfy their needs.
Romans 8:15 (NLT) says, “You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.”
I like how the Message puts it too: “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance!”
I have newly been given the immense honor and responsibility to lead, love, and guide my daughter as her earthly father. I desire to be a “good dad” and to have a relationship with my daughter with a high level of trust and connection. I do, however, want to approach this blog with total humility and acknowledge my lack of experience in this area. I have always been very hungry to learn and invite any and all feedback regarding this subject! I know that I have only just begun my trek as an earthly father, but I can see a blueprint for good fatherhood plastered across scripture; it is here that God demonstrates to us what it means to be a good, good father. I have also seen this in the model of brave and courageous men who have embraced this challenge with selflessness, integrity, and sincerity!
As I have been reflecting and contemplating this weighty role, I have come to realize glimpses of what I am tasked with. I pray this list of jobs are helpful for you as well. As a daddy, seven important assignments have been revealed to me (so far). With this new title, I have been given the authority and duty to:
1. Put my second love first & demonstrate to her what a healthy relationship looks like. I must prioritize and serve her mother with continued covenantal, sacrificial love and respect. My wife will always come before my children, because I will choose to emphasize this as a priority. God is my first love, Mikelle is my second, and my children next. No one will convince me that my order should vary from this. A thriving, Christ-honoring marriage will provide her with valuable standards, make her feel safe, and will help her to gauge how she is to be treated when she seeks a spouse.
2. Provide for her physical needs. I will work to feed, clothe, nourish, and shelter my daughter and teach her how to steward and multiply what she has been given so that she will be able to do the same as she grows.
3. Protect her. I know that I cannot protect her from everything, despite my hearts deepest desire to do so. I will always pray for her. I will carry out this duty to protect to the best of my ability, guided by the word and using discernment, wisdom, and correction (by the way, punishment is different than correction).
4. Reveal to her the value that God has placed on her. Rather than training her to strive for things that the world conveys as “value-adding” which in my experience only leads to comparison, striving, and temporary satisfaction… I want to uncover, unearth, and unveil the worth that she already has and show it to her. Pull the “gold” out of your children and daily coat them with these exposed treasures.
5. Teach her how to have a relationship with God, through Jesus. Rather than just showing her what it means to “be a good person” or simply fulfilling an expectation to attend church, I want her to learn what it means to walk hand in hand with Jesus. The latter two can be done void of relationship and can lead to destructive choices and warped perspectives.
6. Train her in gratitude. Learning gratitude, thankfulness, and contentment is crucial to thrive in this life. A lack of these things leads to unhappiness, consumerism, people-pleasing, entitlement, complaining, and a host of other serious issues. An abundance of these things can lead to fulfillment and life-satisfaction despite challenging life-circumstances.
7. Love her unconditionally. Regardless of her behavior, I must choose to love this girl with love that is void of condition. I can only do this with the help of the Holy Spirit. Lavish your kids with love that is creative, extravagant, and unsparing.
These challenges, in my mind, offer a very broad but important job description of what it means to me to be her dad. These are my new goals and role responsibilities. I’m excited for the ones that are yet to be revealed to me (I know there are many more). These cues come straight from the example God has shown us in the word, revealed through His son, Jesus Christ.
Timothy Keller puts it this way, “God, being a good Father, tries to give us what we would have asked for if we knew everything He knew.”
Fathers, fathers of fathers, and potential fathers… will you join me in these responsibilities, duties, and challenges? Let’s transform the meaning of father in our society and honor God with this role.