This Sunday is Father’s Day and for some people that means a powerful time of positive reflection. Dad was great. Others though approach Father’s day with a yawn at best. Either way I typically look at this confused occasion as an opportunity to teach about God’s design for fatherhood and the family. Dads are influential and important beyond measure. When I talk with solid leaders I like to ask them about their fathers and their relationship with them. If I’m studying the life of a great leader from the past or one presently alive that I just can’t get close to I still try to uncover something in connection to their fathers. Almost without exception, the great Kingdom leaders that I know had a good relationship with their dad and he was a tremendous part of their inner formation.
My story is not too shiny in this department. When people ask me about my father I sometimes jokingly reply, “Well, which one”? I suppose I could categorize my journey with dads this way.
1. Legal Dad. This would be Jim Hinton who married my mom when I was about 7 and then adopted me a year later. Dad paid the bills and had a good work ethic. But the only advice I can ever remember getting from him was: “Steve I don’t care what you do when you grow up as long as it’s legal.” Thanks Dad; I’ll try not to disappoint you on that one.
2. Bio Dad. Carry Collins would be this guy and he and my mother were divorced before I was a year old. I met the Mr. Collins right before Deb and I moved to Russia in 1994. Apparently the attorney who handled the original divorce figured that theoretically I could get killed on the other side of the globe and that I ought to meet my biological father.
3. Intermission Dad. This would be a man named Mr. Wilder of which my mother was married to for a year or so when I was in pre-school and kindergarten. The problem here was that his three daughters targeted mom as the evil step mother and so they all parted company. I think I actually liked this guy and he’s the one who taught me how to ride a bike.
4. Commercial Dad. Commercial Dad would be a few men mom dated before Legal dad. These were a couple of guys who were in my world for a short time tempting me with the idea of fatherhood. I particularly like the one with the motorcycle. Or maybe it was just that he let me ride in front of him on the bike and control the speed.
5. Wish Dad. These would be men I know of whom I often think of and sometimes wonder, “Wow that would be cool if he was my dad.” But the reality is that they are not. They have sons of their own.
So when it comes to Father’s day I don’t think a whole lot about those who wore the name in my life. I do however think of the men that God brought into my journey to mentor me at various stages and I’m thankful for them. I think of God’s design for the family and challenge myself to be the dad to my kids I never had. But I also stop and remember the words of Jesus early on in his ministry regarding a Father.
The disciples asked Jesus point blank for advice on prayer. Without missing a beat Jesus opened up with what we know as the Lord’s Prayer and modeled addressing God as, “Our Father in Heaven.” Sometimes people read those words today and their thought is simply . . . oh really?
Father in Heaven? That’s not too far of a grasp for some. Their relationship with their earthly fathers was great and the expansion to a heavenly father, an eternal Father, makes sense. On the other hand, that’s just a little too far of a stretch to be comforting for many. It’s like when Donald Miller said that if God is our father; then maybe it’s kind of like he made a marketing mistake. Don said that because his earthly father deserted him as a boy and restoration from the pain had not yet occurred in his life.
The idea of a Father in Heaven is something I get it intellectually. The original word choice of Jesus there conveys the idea of a large and loving father who compassionately reaches down to care for his child. My head gets it but my heart does not always follow and I can feel the pain of many who have voiced the questions. Questions like; “how can I trust this idea of a Heavenly Father when my earthly dad, or lack thereof, was so untrustworthy?” It’s as though even if they begin to make the theological connection, there still seems to be a cry in their hearts for resolve on at least three tensions.
1. Does God like me? Yes God loves me, but come on, God loves everyone. The question is; does he like me beyond the numbers of humanity?
2. Is God proud of me?
3. Can I trust Him with my future, calling, ministry, and life? The list goes on.
Yes is the answer to those questions. Sometimes it just takes a step of faith and time for all the pieces to fall into place. The reality though is that the God of all creation really has made a way through Jesus for us to be HIS adopted daughters and sons. When a person is born again into the Kingdom of Heaven, then the God of Heaven becomes her or his eternal father. This Father in Heaven is not like our earthly fathers even on their best days. He is above them. He is perfect and powerful and without dysfunction. This Father in Heaven really does feel all those affirming things toward us and will indeed reach down and heal all who would come to Him.
I know the right answers to those questions in my head even though sometimes my heart is slow to follow through with the emotions. Yet in faith, I will continue to call the God of all creation Father and reach out to Him. After all, Jesus said I could.
What about your Dad story?
Do you know the Love of God and His earnest desire to be your Heaven Father? Feel free to shoot me an email and maybe we can talk.