Monday, February 21, 2005


Within the space of a month last summer my whole world changed. In August I became a father for the first time, something that gave me so much joy and pride. I was overwhelmed with love for this little life that I could hold in my arms and that spent most of its time crying, sleeping or feeding. Since then people keep coming up to me and asking, ‘so what’s it like to be a dad?’ - as if I, (a 27 year old youth worker who is more of a kid than the ones he works with), could ever be legally allowed the responsibility of caring for and shaping a life. Generally being a father is pretty good fun. Every time I wake my son up from a nap his face produces a bright toothless smile. Sometimes he will fling out his arms wanting to be held. At the moment he blows raspberries when you try and feed him and he laughs hysterically with the cutest little giggle whenever he sees anyone kicking a football…

However about 4 weeks after my son was born my world was turned upside down again when my father died of cancer. He was my greatest example, a caring, funny, loving man who would do anything for anyone.

Fatherhood therefore has become a bit of a common theme in my life recently as I have laughed with the joy and grappled through the pain and sorrow. In all of this my faith has kept me grounded and kept me going. I guess much of this is down to the thought of having a God who describes Himself as ‘Father’.

I find this aspect of God’s character so comforting and so meaningful, despite the fact that it reminds me of the loss of my own dad. I think God chooses to describe himself as a Father because it is an image we’re used to and so can relate with. Whatever our experience of Fatherhood we have an ideal of what it should be. Therefore it’s a way for God to relate to us. God is not an aloof, impersonal deity who sits on some cloud overlooking all he has made with an air of dispassionate and disinterested calm. God is the opposite. God is a relational God. He longs to know us, longs for us to know Him, and discover more of who He is. Our God wants to journey with us through the adventure of life being right there with us through the good and bad. God calls himself father because it helps us to connect with Him.

One of the frustrating things about being a dad of a little baby is that it is really difficult to communicate with my son as he can’t speak yet. He has a few different cries to tell me what he wants, but when I speak to him he can’t really understand me. I can make him laugh and I can meet his basic needs but generally our communication is really limited. It’s kind of a one way relationship, where I give and he receives. He can’t give me much attention because he can’t concentrate for very long. I’m pretty certain he doesn’t understand that I want the best for him, and that I do everything for him out of the love I have for him. In some ways he is unaware of me – it could be anyone caring for him. Except that I know that he trusts me. Sometimes when he is crying or overwhelmed by life he will look at me to comfort him. I have discovered that the best way to do this is to simply pick him up and hold him in my arms. I reckon this is pretty similar to our relationship with God. So often we are unaware of God, what He does for us and the love he has for us. We struggle to communicate with him or give Him our attention because He is beyond our understanding. The glimpses we have of God often seem so far apart and we struggle to link His provision for us with Him giving to us. We are just too little to understand. However every so often we have these moments when we look to God for reassurance or comfort, where we show that we trust Him and that we need Him, and at these times we find that we are actually in His arms, caught up in His embrace. We find that as we seek God, the Father is right there holding us.

This picture of a father embracing his child is for me one of the most powerful images in the Bible. It comes out in the story Jesus tells of the prodigal son. The son is returning home, hoping to find acceptance in his father’s house as a servant after rejecting his Father in a pretty big way by asking for his inheritance early. As the son returns home he’s planning what to say to his father, how to say sorry, how to ask for forgiveness, how to plead to be a servant. However the son has no time to state his case because the Father has run to meet him so that he can wrap the son up in his embrace. The Father has forgiven, accepted and shown the extent of his love to his lost son in that one action. That embrace says everything. That embrace is fatherhood. That is the embrace God desires for each of us and I guess it’s that place where we each desire to be, where we feel safe, secure, certain, accepted and loved.

Making our way there is simply about seeking Him just as we are. We just need to have the intent of re-establishing the relationship to find ourselves in God’s arms. It’s probably something we have to do quite frequently, but God longs for those moments where we set our hearts on Him. God longs for those times where He has us in his embrace, where he can comfort us, reassure us, quiet us with His love. And if my fatherhood is anything like God’s He’s probably pulling faces at us too, trying to make us smile.

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