Whenever anyone mentions the whole God-is-your-father thing meaning think of God actually like you think about your parents, instead of just saying the word Father at the beginning of prayers, all I can think of is that you have to be careful about that because some people have bad fathers so that could give them the wrong impression about what God is like.
But I always think – well, I’m ok for that because my dad’s a good dad so I don’t have to watch that because it’s ok for me to think of God as being like my dad – but I never actually get on to actually thinking about God as being like my dad.
Read that sentence again a few times. It honestly does make sense.
I once gave this web site address to my dad so he might read this, so I’d better think carefully about what I say! Dad: if you ever do read this, it’s absolutely fine for you to read it, but just don’t get too big-headed…
Because literally yesterday I actually thought about what I would gain if I did imagine God was a bit like my dad, and it’s a lot.
You see, my dad is the ultimate example for me of strength through weakness. He is the only person I know who has really been broken by God and come out better off. You see David wasn’t kidding when he said “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” to God – God really does do that to people. But my dad’s the only person I know who (after years of “crying out by day, but you do not answer”) eventually got to where he could say “Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One,” “Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you.”
What is important is that my dad’s brokenness has not gone – he’s not some kind of cheesey “even stronger than before,” he’s weak – and God is strong through him.
So what has this got to do with God – surely God isn’t strong through weakness – he’s strong through strength, right? But this is the thing that thinking about this has really taught me – maybe that’s not the important thing.
What was the Psalm I was quoting? Psalm 22. And what’s special about that Psalm? It’s the Psalm Jesus quoted at the worst and most crucial time of his life: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I always thought that that is the real reason it was important to Jesus to say that he was from the line of David, because this Psalm and others like it perfectly sum up Jesus’ life: strength through weakness.
OK, OK so Jesus is strong through weakness, but God the father is strong through strength, surely?
Well, maybe – I don’t know, but here’s what I thought: I don’t care!
I’ve come to a profound point in my life – I’ve never been here before – there’s a point of theology about this, and I don’t care! I don’t care what God is really like on some abstract plane, I care about whether I can get my head around what he’s like in some concrete plane.
Something I have trouble with with God is finding hime love-able. I can sort of be grateful (abstractly, anyway), but I don’t really feel there’s anything there to love.
But thinking about God as being like my dad – weak, broken, struggling to survive under the weight of … everything – that makes me able to love him.
(Blimey I’m making my dad sound like a psycho – I don’t mean it like that.)
If I think of the garden of Eden as God crushed under the guilt of starting all this when he knew this would happen, I can love him – if I think of God sending Jesus because it was the least he could do after he put us in this situation – if I think of God inspiring those beautiful, freeing words “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless,” then I can love him – I can love God!
And yes, it’s theologically incorrect, and I really do care about that – (I’m not as postmodern as I think I am) – but it helps … I feel like I’ve taken a step forward here, and that doesn’t happen often.
So, if by just thinking something wrong I can feel something right then I’ll do it, and maybe you should too. What’s more important: that God is all-powerful or that God is love? No contest in my book: otherwise we’d just have the one testament.
Would a ‘good’ dad stand and watch his children end up in an eternal place of hurt, pain, nothingness? God did try and sort things out through Jesus but He knows that hasn’t worked for everyone so he sees loads, if we believe in the evangelical understanding of the gospels, of people still going to hell. Would a ‘good’ dad just kepp on forgiving?
This is stuff I’ve spent a long time worrying about. I don’t really know, but maybe another question to ask is would a good dad force his child to be with him or would he allow them to go away if they wanted to? But if going away is eternal pain as you say that’s still hard to swallow.
If heaven is all its made out to be (I can’t imagine a place where everyone keeps singing to be that good) then surely if God lets evryone in then everyone would come to their senses?
I once knew a bloke who told me he let his child touch a red hot pan because they would know that they should never do that again. There is some lasting logic in this but I am not sure that it feels ‘comfortable’.
I don’t know how God thinks. I’m sure he gets angry? I’m sure he has compassion? What I don’t know is what God does about justice??
The bit about God forcing people is interesting. Does God not have the power to make us realise our need for Him? Is that force?
In the end the odd thing is I carry on believing…just in case…?
Loads of stuff here, but one thought: I think God deliberately _gave_up_ his power over us.
I think that’s part of why I was struggling and eventually decided not to worry. If I am doing something just in case that I don’t think has any impact then why do it?
I actually noticed being _happier_ after than before. Well, in some areas but not in all. I’ll have to decide whether to go into the specifics here or not.
I can sympathise with why you think this, Andy – it has attractive aspects. I don’t think I believe it, though – isn’t there a Proverb where it says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps?” This sort of sentiment seems to be repeated over and over, so I’m finding it hard to shake.
Very interesting, Andy – very good point about thinking what I can learn about God from my dad. I’ll chew on that.
I think it’s important what you say about God suffering and showing weakness. I think it’s been one of the most important things I’ve learned about God in my whole life: that he’s not distant, unmovable; that he’s suffering, that he values humility and weakness above pride and success.
Oh dear – too many things I want to reply to. Anyway, one thing is, I used to think I just couldn’t understand it, when people suggested that God chose to give up some power over us – surely He’s outside of the universe and controls everything and can’t really lose control, but only pretend to? But I think I see it, in the sense that my parents could lock me up to control me, but choose to let me go my own way, like the prodigal son. If God “chooses” to let us “disobey” Him, and He sticks to His decision, He’s not powerless over us, but it would be against His will to manipulate us, just as He is all-powerful but is constrained by His good character.
On the bigger subject, I always find it useful to think about or explain my relationship with God in terms of how a parent behaves – e.g. my mum loves me just for being her son, which means she’d still love me (probably) if I decided to burn her house down or I murdered someone. But that doesn’t mean I should feel it’s OK to do it. In the same way God loves me even if I abuse the freedoms He gives me, but that doesn’t make it OK to take advantage of His unconditional love, like some people think. But enough from me for now.
>>The bit about God forcing people is interesting. Does God not have the power to make us realise our need for Him? Is that force?
>>In the end the odd thing is I carry on believing…just in case…?
>If I am doing something just in case that I don’t think has any impact then why do it?
I kind of feel I went the opposite way first of all. In the church I grew up in, it seemed that the only difference it made to be a Christian was that you believed God heard your prayers and was there, and so you interpreted what went on in the world in terms of God, whereas anyone who didn’t believe in God could just as easily interpret what went on some other way (e.g. that things just happened or didn’t happen regardless of prayers, and didn’t have any significance). It seemed to me that we had ‘blind faith’ (i.e. a totally free choice to believe, without any motivation) and then saw the world against that frame of reference rather than another one.
But I felt like there must be something more, and I was always searching for something more exciting and meaningful, and then suddenly some things happened which convinced me that (a) God does (imp)act in obvious direct and supernatural ways (b) God does hear prayers and act (c) God is really there, etc. (Was that force?)
Since then though, when I’ve felt really spiritually weak and unmotivated, and I don’t feel convinced that God is really in evidence and doing things, I start to feel again that I’m just continuing to believe for the sake of the past and ‘in case’ it is all true. I carry on believing cos I’m frightened what’d happen after this life if God really is there and I turned away from Him, and cos I’m frightened of what I’d end up like in this life if I lost the meaning and purpose He gives me. It makes me think of John 6 –
“You don’t want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
And Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who else is there for us to go to? You have the words of eternal life.”
and Psalm 73 –
“When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterwards you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
But every so often God does give me a sign and encouragement that He really is there after all.
Thanks Midge. DavidB I hope that explains what I meant…
The parent analogy is really helpful to me too.
When I went away from God for a while I was a _lot_ happier.
In my case that was because I associated being a Christian with crushing guilt. When I came back I had a healthier attitude, which I try to hang on to.
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