I’ve heard people say that our notion of God as “Father” is bound up in our notions of our earthly fathers and it seems there’s a lot of evidence that supports the notion. Since my father was also a preacher, I got way more than a double dose of the genetic imprint. Virtually every sermon I heard until I was fifteen, and I heard thousands of them, was preached by my dad. Not only did he convey that theological construct incidentally, it was molded by his preaching from the pulpit, the tractor seat, the hayfield and the truck. Dad was tremendously successful in instilling in me, and each of my siblings to varying degrees, the idea that there was nothing more important than being right and doing right. The notion of a God who liked me wasn’t part of the schema.
That may have been due to some unintended aversion on my part. Maybe I just stayed home sick that Sunday that Dad preached about God’s love for and delight in His children. But, given that I missed only two or three Sundays in those years, that seems unlikely. I believe Dad preached the God he knew and served Him to the best of his ability.
I can’t say whether or not it was Dad’s intention that I grow up with a strongly entrenched, deeply embedded notion of God as someone who loved me but was completely intolerant of any mistakes, sins or errors. The idea of a God who likes me is something I’m still working on, still cultivating.
Throughout my adolescence and adulthood, even up until now, I have had the idea that there is always one certain “thing” that I’m supposed to be doing in order to please God. Preach at this particular church, work at this particular job, marry this particular person, live in this particular place, etc. Choose the wrong one of any of those, and choose at my own peril. It’s not such a bad philosophy, I suppose, as long as you’ve chosen properly. But follow your own notions and hell erupts in your own life.
I know at age sixty, I should be shaping my own notions and taking responsibility for my own theology but it is a struggle. I read a passage in the Bible yesterday that just about blew my head open. I think it may have created just enough space to help me to a healthier view. I hope you don’t mind me sharing it here; it’s from II Corinthians 2.
12 Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, 13 I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.
Did you get that?! “God opened a door for me in Troas but since I couldn’t find my buddy there, I went somewhere else.”
Are you kidding me?!! God created opportunity for you in one place but you weren’t happy there so you left? Isn’t that abandoning your purpose, rejecting God’s will and inviting the minions of hell to dominate your existence? Sounds like Paul must have set his own life on fire, doesn’t it?
But look at what he says next: 14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.
No matter where we go, we can do God’s work; we can teach and live in demonstration of Him and live triumphantly. Not in numbing, paralyzing fear but in joy and liberation, the freedom of knowing that as long as we live for Him, it doesn’t matter so much where we live or where we work or what we do for a living. Jesus has not cast a mold of rigid control over us; He came to give us abundant life. Our Daddy who created the heavens and the earth did not send His Son to die for us so He could then turn His back on us.
He actually likes us quite a bit and that “us,” I’ll have you know, includes you and me.