Posts tagged forgiveness
Reflections on Father’s Day: 40 Years as a Child of God

Everyone is called by a name, but few get the honor to call someone by such a personal, intimate name like father or daddy.  It does not require a personal relationship to call a man by their given name such as David, Paul, or Michael. But calling someone father or daddy, this is personal. This is reserved for a special relationship, a unique privilege for a son or daughter. 

Contributing to “the act” of a baby coming into this world can be relatively easy, fun, and enjoyable. It doesn’t take necessarily a strong man to make this kind of contribution. But fathering a baby is not being a father. Fatherhood is an honor. Fatherhood is a responsibility that requires great sacrifice. 

This year, Father’s Day is particularly meaningful and personal for me. Today, I celebrate 40 years of calling God my Father—having a personal relationship with God as my Father and being His child. As a young six year old girl on a Father’s Day Sunday afternoon, I knelt beside my parent’s bed with my parents on either side of me, and gave Jesus my life and entered into the family of God. Calling God, the Creator of heaven and earth, father or daddy is extremely personal for me. It is not a formal relationship, but rather a father/daughter relationship with on-going conversation that is 24/7. A lot of people refer to God as God, but they do not have a personal relationship to call Him Father or Daddy.

Father’s Day can illicit a plethora of emotions ranging from an extraordinary appreciation or deep love to an indescribable pain or hurt. One’s relationship with their father in many ways has a direct impact on who we are today. The father/child relationship influences all relationships we have in life. The significance of this relationship colors the world we live in and how we see life and others. Whether you were deeply hurt by your father or were held by loving arms of a father, we see the world through the lens of this relationship. Over the last 25 years of doing ministry, one thing I have observed is the fact that many men “father” children, but not all are committed to the sacrifice and honor that fatherhood requires.  

Our society does not value the family. And fathers walking out on their families is rampant. While it doesn’t take a strong man to contribute to birthing a child, it take an extraordinary strong man to stay and embrace the sacrifice of fatherhood and commitment to one’s family. My heart is broken to watch men walk away from the commitment of fatherhood. 

Fatherhood provides a tangible visual for us to embrace the father-heart of God. Although imperfect in our humanity, there are distinct ways we can get a glimpse of God’s love in the gift of fatherhood. Fatherhood is an honor. It is a sacred relationship that has the potential to reflect the image of God as Father. While there are many qualities that fatherhood embodies, there are 5 that I think are essential and allow us to see God as a Father: Unconditional Love, Protection, Discipline, Faithfulness, and Forgiveness.

Each and everyone of us long to be loved with an unconditional love. We will never measure up by our actions or behaviors. We will all make mistakes. A good father will love us when we mess up. His love will never be conditional. It won’t matter what kind of grades we make, how we perform on the field, or how successful we are in our profession. A father that loves unconditionally gives the gift of loving us because of who we are, not what we have to offer. Unconditional love celebrates who we have been created to be loving us no matter what—regardless of our failures. 

We live in a world of good vs evil, strong vs weak. A father that provides protection and defends his sons and daughters teaches his children that there is safety at home. There is safety in a father’s loving arms. That protection and security a father can provide allows his children the carefree freedom to explore and thrive knowing their father will rescue, defend, and protect them at all cost.

Love provides discipline. Discipline is a gift given to those we love and want to see successful in life. It is nurturing correction that allows a child to learn right from wrong. It is a way for a child to feel safe and loved because there are boundaries in place to keep them from harm. Discipline is not done in anger, but rather love. No correction is enjoyable at the time, but a child that has been provided loving discipline will thrive and be confident able to discern right from wrong. A child that is disciplined is blessed. 

Faithfulness is the gift given to a family of not giving up or walking out when times are hard. Faithfulness provides a stability and safety for children to experience in the home. Faithfulness is a picture of a love that never ends. All families will experience hardships. In a broken world, it is impossible to live together as a family and not experience pain, brokenness, and heartache. But a father who never leaves and withstands the storms of life holding hands with his bride and children by his side is a man of courage.  A man of strength never leaves or abandons those he has been entrusted to keep safe in the midst of life’s storms. A good father never leaves. 

Life is riddled with choices from the moment our eyes open in a sun-lit room to the time we drift off in slumber at night. With every decision there are consequences. When we make wise decisions, there are blessings that fill our lives. And likewise, when we make the wrong decision, we have to live with the consequences of our choices. A father that navigates and helps guide his children with wisdom, but is there to hold and comfort, teach and correct a child when poor choices have been made is the epitome of forgiveness. There is not a person who is alive and breathing that does not need the gift of forgiveness. We all are desperate for forgiveness because we all mess up. A father who can calmly teach and correct a child through their painful mistakes is a father who loves deeply. Forgiveness does not eliminate consequences or discipline. Forgiveness is a beautiful gift a father can give recognizing that we all are in need of grace. 

It is in our humanity that we are all reminded that the best of us struggle with providing any of these five qualities with excellence. Our selfishness and pride often stand in the way of articulating and executing any of these qualities successfully. There are many who read through a list like this and are reminded of all the ways their father has failed them. Walking out on their mother and siblings, remind them of the hurt they can’t seem to move past. Estranged relationships leave so many in pain due to abuse and mis-management of the role of fatherhood. However, many of us do have fathers that have loved us well and modeled many of these traits with excellence. There are fathers, while not perfect, who do strive to provide these qualities to their families. 

And there is hope. Regardless of the kind of experience you had with your father, there is one thing for certain—no father is perfect. That is, all but one. God’s love is unconditional. He has given us the ultimate gift of love by giving His Son, Jesus, as the sacrifice for our sin which separates us from His perfection. He is a Father that loves us as sons and daughters. He is our protection. He is our defender. He is our shield. He is there to pick us up when we fall down. He is there to hold us tight as the Father who lovingly embraces and holds as His child. He is perfect, without sin, and yet it is His loving discipline that calls us to repentances and relationship with Him. God’s faithfulness is the promise of never leaving us or forsaking us. He never walks out or abandons us. It is His faithfulness that is always standing with open arms to receive us, welcome us, and hold us despite our shortcomings. 

And because of His great love for us, it is His forgiveness that creates the bridge of reconciliation from our humanity to the family of God. It is the sacrifice God offered by giving His one and only Son to become sin and the sacrifice for mankind to enter into the loving family of God. That kind of sacrifice can only be offered by a true, loving, and perfect Father. This is the gift of fatherhood that only God Himself has the power or authority to offer. 

It is the chasm of selfishness and pride that we find ourselves, which prevents us from receiving this gift of true Fatherhood He offers. Regardless of the relationship we have had with our earthly father, we are all offered the gift of a perfect Father that offers unconditional love, protection, discipline, faithfulness, and forgiveness. Today, I celebrate Father’s Day honoring my earthly father, and father of my daughters, but most of all 40 years as a daughter of the King. A Father’s Day that provides us a home in eternity offering us unconditional love and forgiveness because of the gift of His Son, Jesus. The gift of calling our Creator, Father, is the ultimate celebration of Father’s Day. This is Fatherhood. 

Growing Pains

One lazy Sunday morning I walked into my son’s bedroom and noticed he wasn’t there.  When I entered my daughter’s room, the scene that I saw would touch any parent’s heart. Emma was gently cuddling her brother so that he could fall back asleep, as he was still sleepy. My husband and I later commented on how sweet our children were with each other and how we were so blessed that they got along so well.  We may have spoken too soon that day as later that morning they had a huge fight that led to many tears and hurt feelings. When I heard the fight begin I did what I usually do which is to try to let them figure it out on their own before I intervene. However, this time the feelings and voices were escalating pretty quickly with no nearsighted resolution.  One child was red with anger and the other was crying inconsolably. I decided everyone needed a “time out” to process their feelings and calm down. After everyone had some alone time, we came back together to talk about what had happened. Elam’s feeling were hurt because he felt that Emma had blamed him and judged him for not building the right roof in Minecraft. Emma was mad because she felt that Elam was blaming her for the fight. 

After I dealt with the children and we came to a resolution, I realized something about the situation. I saw my own actions in the root of this fight, which is being quick to judge.  My sweet children were replicating what they see in me. Ouch!  I reflected back on times in which my first response is often a judgment statement instead of a question to clarify behavior. If I’m talking to my daughter about something and I see her make a face, I will say, “Change your bad attitude” without first inquiring what she is experiencing. On many occasions it is not a bad attitude it might be that she is feeling bad about what she did. 

One of the many challenges of parenting is observing your children replicate your faults and weaknesses. It’s so hard to witness that.  So what is a parent to do when this happens? Well, the first step is admitting and acknowledging that there is an area for growth and even confess it to your children.  During our talk after the big fight, I confessed to the children that I had been so guilty of judging their behavior on many occasions and they had learned that from me. I strongly believe that being a perfect parent is not attainable and being a parent who admits when he/she fails it is far more impacting on a child’s life that the ideal of unattainable perfection. Admitting our need for growth in a certain area is an essential point in growing into a better parent and a godly person. It is amazing how God can use parenting to help us see areas in our lives that don’t honor him. Admittance is an important step to growth.

When I observe an incident with my children and see my own behavior in theirs, I often feel guilty. I feel so bad and often think that I have scarred my children for the rest of their lives. How could I let this happen? Those are often my initial thoughts, but then I am reminded how God’s grace is always sufficient. An important step in growing as a parent is allowing you to feel God’s grace and to forgive yourself. Being hard on yourself will not promote change like the way grace does. Grace prompts us and empowers us to change. Guilt helps us realize there needs to be a change but the guilt itself will not change anything. When I am too hard on myself or am constantly apologizing to my children for the same offense, I am essentially teaching them to be hard on themselves. It is another behavior that I am emulating to them. I don’t want my children to grow up being hard on themselves so I need to show them to have grace on themselves by showing grace to myself. The feeling of guilt itself will not lead to growth, but it can prompt us to want to change. Ultimately, it is through God’s grace that we can find everything we need to be able to change.

I have learned I am more apt to change when I have a game plan. When I see my children behaving like I do, I realized I need an action plan so that I don’t commit the same mistakes. That day my kids and I memorized James 1: 19 that reminds us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” Reminding myself to listen first before placing judgment on one’s actions would help me in growing in that area.  I went back to God’s word. What does God say about this issue and what honors Him? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves when we are seeking to grow in a certain area. I now ask questions before I make statements.  For example, when my daughter is making faces when I am talking to her, instead of stating you have a bad attitude, I ask, “Can you tell me what you are feeling?” or “ You are making a face and I am not sure what it means.” My action plan has helped me in taking the right steps to change and grow into a better person that honors God.  You may also find it helpful to do some research by asking other parents on how they handle certain issues or behaviors. Your area of growth may be the same as mine or it may be different. Whatever that area is, determine an action plan so that when you are in trigger situations you will react differently.  

Ultimately, growth comes from God. It is through His grace and His word that we can change. Ask God to help you grow. Ask Him to help you listen to His gentle reminder when we aren’t honoring Him. Remind yourself that you will make mistakes along the way but with the help of God you can become the mother that God has destined you to be.