For the next few weeks we are reflecting on The Lord’s Prayer. In his first post, Alastair considered how The Prayer is Collective. As Alastair and I have been meditating on the Lord’s Prayer it has given me ample opportunity to ponder anew God as Father. I know as a counselor everyone has some sort of “Daddy” issue. (if you don’t think so … just wait for it). I have often heard stories of men and women who were hurt by their fathers or let down in some way. Even the smallest wound can be a scar on our hearts. I am not surprised so many people cannot relate well to the image of God as the Father.
Not to minimize the pain or defend the men to blame, but they are human. In some way we put our dads’ humanity onto God’s divinity. We can mistakenly attribute God with weakness and passivity or bullying and a controlling nature. Maybe we think of him as manipulative, punishing or even abusive. For others God is associated with feelings of rejection, distance, absence, neglect, or silence.
So what do we do when Jesus teaches us to pray “Father” and we have all these lingering memories of our own Dads, good and bad?
I invite you into the childish, not-so-theologically demanding, but sometimes challenging realm of imagination.
Let’s take your Dad (or father figure) as our starting point.
First, let’s think of his negative qualities. When has he hurt you or let you down? When have you felt his sin, imperfection, judgement, or even abuse? Wipe those traits away from his face. Separate the pain he caused you from your imaginary him. Sink all his sins into the depths of the ocean. I want you to keep his face in your mind though, but a forgiven and clean version of him.
Now, think of his good traits and multiply them times infinity and perfect wholeness. Think of his attributes you admire and love. Dwell on him in all of these things. How has he helped you in life? What has he shown you about life, responsibility, discipline, love? Imagine him filled with utmost concern for you, a desire to spend time with you, his devotion to your care, well being and maturity.
Add to this man, now wiped clean of sin, and filled with goodness and love, the attributes of power that come with being our Father “in heaven”. He is now also powerful enough to provide you with all you could even need. He never sleeps or rests but is always watching over you, protecting you, guiding you with wisdom, and keeping you from falling too far into sin. He orchestrates opportunities for you to grow. He opens and closes doors as a way of guiding you into what he knows is best for you. What’s more, he is preparing a place for you with him. He wants to share life with you and care for you, not just from heaven, but for eternity.
That practice is incredibly moving for me.
I think we have been told to separate our daddy issues from God. I am not sure that is completely helpful. My dad is part of me and my memories of him, good or bad, can be used to help me understand God as father. We are told to honor our fathers and mothers. I think honoring the good in our fathers, and forgiving the bad, will lead us into better relationships not only with them, but also in our relationships with God as our Heavenly Father. I hope you can find your own way of meditating on him as your Abba, and wrestling through the challenges that come with this title.
(If you really struggle with seeing God as your Father I hope you can talk to a pastor or counselor about these things. It is a crucial part of his character and I would hate for you to miss out on knowing him in this way)