Our picture of God often comes from our view of our father. That may not be fair, but it is true. I think that was God’s original plan. And if all things had remained equal, it wouldn’t have been a problem. In a world untainted by sin, human fathers would be a clear picture of God the Father. Of course, that ship sailed in the Garden of Eden.
Adam was created in the image of God. Adam messed up. The image was broken. We are now made/born in the image of Adam. So we still look somewhat like God, but we are broken enough that we resemble Him less and less as time goes on.
Some fathers are just horrible excuses for human beings. They are abusive and lazy. It is interesting that even children in these families, especially daughters, often try to find some redeeming quality they can hold onto. Some of these fathers actually leave their family high and dry. This shattered image of God causes many children who grow up in such a scenario to reject the Holy Father who actually created and loves them. They just can’t get past the earthly view to accept the reality of God.
Other fathers are stellar… even perfect. They spend the right amount of time earning a living for the family and spending their life with the family. They sacrifice and even provide a spiritual foundation. They instill character and integrity in their sons and daughters by living it out in front of them and teaching them along the way. This perfect father is extremely rare. And he has become the target for mocking by a culture that has largely grown up without the perfect father.
Then there is the father who loves God, loves his wife, and loves his kids. He does the best he can, except when he falls down. He wants to be the stellar father, but he is determined to not be the horrible excuse father. He bumps his way through fatherhood. He has high ideals, and those keep him on the right path. But sometimes he misses the mark. He loses his temper. He stays too late at work. He doesn’t always praise the children as he should. And he hates himself every time he messes up. Over time he ends up apologizing for his mistakes and making adjustments. Late at night he worries that his shortcomings will overshadow the overarching theme of his life as father. He asks God to smooth out his jagged edges of parenting. He never does not love his children, but he doesn’t always love as well as he would hope. This humbles him almost to the point of humiliation. This father simply desires children who will grab hold of the Godly things he offered and offer him grace in those areas where he failed.
You probably grew up in one of these households. Each father reading this probably identifies with one of these fathers. If you are the perfect father, I should probably get you to write the devotional for next year’s Father’s Day edition. If you are the first or last father described, there is hope. While you cannot go back, you can go forward. There is forgiveness, mercy, grace, and redemption. The fact that we have fathers affirms the idea that there are new beginnings. Don’t beat yourself up. That is Satan’s job. Look to your Father in Heaven and trust in His ability to perfect you. He will cause you to become the father you desire to be, and were created to be. Do not let the culture turn you away from your calling. Don’t let your failure define you. Your failures may be a part of your record, but they are not a forecast.
This world desperately needs great fathers. God created each man with the ability to be a great father. If you aren’t the ‘perfect father’, it is okay… Someone already took that role. While you won’t be perfect, you can be solid. God is not as concerned with your perfection as He is with your participation in His parenting program.
Regardless of what your father was like, or what kind of a father you have been, I invite you into relationship with the Father who never lets you down, and always gives life. The apostle Paul wrote to the early Christians,
“All those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:14-17)
Fathers, we aren’t perfect, so there is no reason to act like we are. Kids, fathers don’t have to be perfect for you to respect them.
I believe I am the third father in this devotional, born of the second father in this devotional, who showed me the ultimate Father through his devotion.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.