Father…when you hear that word what do you think, what image comes to mind? Perhaps you instantly see a heroic figure, a strong loving protective man, or a kind, gentle compassionate presence. Others of us may see nothing but an empty, loss presence. Nothing is there but space and neglect.
Oftentimes the image we see of our earthly father is the same image we imagine when we see our heavenly Father.
And this can be problematic for obvious reasons.
I have a mixture of the two images. I can remember as a little girl waiting to hear the sound of my father’s keys opening the front door of our miniature, three bedroom two bathroom starter home. We lived in the ‘hood but I did not have a clue that’s where we lived because I always had a sense of shelter, of sweet protection.
It was home.
Walking outside, playing with my dog, with toys, with nature, running through the wooded lots surrounding us…there was not a care in the world.
And I was in private school with middle to upper class children, mostly very different from me, so there was a sense of safety, even at school.
My father would come home, at least in my mind, every day around the same time. And when he would open the door I remember running up to him waiting for his embrace. There was a sense of needing approval and attention. Then he would swing me up in the air.
It was the moment of delight I longed for daily.
And I’m sure it filled his heart with joy just as much as mine.
This is a beautiful image of father. Protector. Friend. Presence. Supporter. Guide.
But we probably all have at least one or two difficult memories of “father.”
Maybe there are days when he does not come home as expected, his countenance is disturbed, he is not the gentle friendly guy you need him to be and you are disappointed.
This is all so real in the heart of a small child. In fact, it can be magnified.
Both experiences are valid and both are valuable schoolmasters when relating to our Heavenly Father.
What Can We Learn About “Father”?
That dad I described, fun, friendly, kind, playful is a mirror image of our Heavenly Daddy.
He is there, present when we need him, ready to give us sweet gifts. He wants to give us the gift of His Presence, of joy, peace, patience, happiness, and forgiveness.
Believing in the fact that He will be consistent. He will never come home in a disappointed manner, He is a safe, secure place to land our hearts.
We can Trust Him because of this unchanging stability.
And we can sit on His lap. We can talk to Him about anything, our greatest joys, victories, anticipations…our strongest failures, needs and frustrations.
When we see that our Heavenly Father is not a mixture of good and bad, like we humans are…He is All Good, we are finally able to settle our hearts with His good leadership.
He is much like the Prodigal Son’s Father who is there for us no matter what, ready to pour out blessings on our lives.
When we expect him to be the most disappointed, He is not. Instead, he gives us what we least expect, a huge celebration of the fact that we are Home!
He honors our presence.
We can encounter Jesus around this truth.
GOD Honors my presence.
We have to wonder how others will respond when we show up, but we do not ever have to wonder if our mistakes push GOD away from us, if they cause Him to reject, look down on, or judge us. He is simply excited that you and I showed up for the party.
A New Way to Encounter Jesus
Have you every went into your prayer time only to feel a heap of guilt like a ton of bricks crashing down on your shoulders? Then you want to just hide? And it seems to come out of nowhere.
Am I right with God? Is He angry with me? Am I praying right? I missed my prayer time yesterday. I am not on my schedule. I wonder if I’m under His judgment because I haven’t forgiven so and so. I need to find the right Scripture to focus on. I need to focus. I need to spend more time in the Word and put on my Spiritual weapons. Why am I not consistent?
Ugg…by this point prayer is exhausting. Because pleasing Him is beyond me. It is impossible.
I used to think this way all the time and my guess is, so have you. It is human to base God’s satisfaction with us on who we are, our faulty mentalities about who He is and all the ways we think our prayer life should be.
Yet the reality is that we are way off in thinking God wants all that! Sometimes he wants a few minutes of us simply accepting that it is okay to vent, to talk to him, to get it off our chest just as we would a friend. And then to be ourselves, to not feel guilty for the way we prayer.
To stop comparing our prayer lives to others and to know that every little bit counts, is enough and is heard.
When we put down the show and just choose to be, we are starting to go in the right direction.
Let’s encounter Jesus around the Prodigal Son story.
“And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of the story of the prodigal son, but ask Him to refresh your experience of the Father in this well-known story. Read Luke 15:11-32, where the son demands his inheritance, lives a life of foolish choices, and then out of complete desperation and regret returns home to his father.
Notice the father’s response. While the son was a long way off, the father saw him coming. Imagine the scene of a father who sits on the front porch, scanning the horizon, looking for any sign of his son returning home.
You have a Father like that. He can’t wait to be with you, can’t wait to run off the front porch and embrace you.
Pause for a moment and imagine the scene of the story, but this time, imagine Jesus running out to meet you. He is filled with love and compassion. He runs to you and embraces you because His heart is thrilled to call you His child.
What does it do to your heart to imagine a God who can’t wait to be with you? Tell the Father about your gratitude:
Heavenly Father, when I imagine that You are scanning the horizon because You can’t wait to be with me, I feel…
When I imagine that You are running to meet me and embrace me with a heart of love and compassion, my heart is moved with gratitude because…
My father would come home and I was in so much anticipation to see him walk through the door, squealing with Joy! But I hadn’t imagined that he was feeling the same about you.
Could the same be true of our Heavenly Father? Filled with delight over the thought of seeing your face as He opens the door to meet you!
How has your perspective about your father changed over time? Maybe you have a God Encounter you want to share to encourage others. We would love to hear your story in the comments below!