Thursday, February 2, 2012

Father Heart of God

Because of some challenging parenting situations in the last few months, I am gaining a fresh perspective on the father heart of God. Here is a little of what I am feeling and experiencing.

As a father, God longs for us to be intimately connected with Him. He created us to know and love Him; therefore, He wants this close relationship with us more than anything else. Sure, He wants our obedience, as I do with my children. But more important than obedience, is a loving relationship. I want a close relationship with my children much more than mere obedience. I, like God, want obedience to flow out of this healthy relationship. Otherwise, obedience is simply legalistic performance.

Furthermore, as a father, God desperately wants us to listen to Him and heed His advice. He will not force this, but He cries out for our attention. Hear the emotion of God in this passage: “Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me!” (Ps. 81:8). As a father of four, I can relate. My heart aches when my children want little to do with me. When they are off doing their own thing and forget about me, it pains me. I understand that I cannot force them to listen and ask for my advice, but like God, for their own good I just wish they would come to me more often. And when they do come for advice, I love to give it … because I love them.

Hebrews 12 tells us that God disciplines those whom He loves, and He chastens every son in whom He receives. When we step out of God’s will, God’s love motivates Him to discipline us. If God did not discipline us, then He would not be a loving father. I know what this is like. When my children disobey, I must discipline them. I must help them experience the consequences of their sin. Oh, how it breaks my heart to discipline my children. The old saying, “This hurts me more than you” is so true.

The story of the Prodigal Son opens a huge window to the father heart of God. We turn our back on God, go our own way, live what we think is a fun, sinful life. Yet, all it yields is pig slop. The entire time we are off living a sinful life, God is patiently and loving waiting for us to return. How His heart must ache every day, awaiting our repentance.

As a father, I know some of what this feels like. It is so hard to wait for a wayward child to repent. As we wait, we pray. And we wait even more, and pray even more. We wish we could force a wayward child to see … but we can’t. They must see for themselves. They must willfully repent. And we lovingly wait still longer for this to occur.

But when the prodigal returned, God received him with open arms. God declared a party to celebrate the repentance of His prodigal son! He demonstrates that His love for His children is indeed unconditional. He didn’t even allow the wayward child to get out his full confession before He assured the son of total forgiveness. Oh, the depths of God’s mercies. They are new every morning!

If we are going to parent like God, then we must completely forgive our prodigals when they return. We must shower them with love and mercy. We must not judge or condemn. We must assure them that we will stand beside them and help them to get their feet back on the ground. As the famous line goes, “There is no place like home.”

Isn’t it wonderful to serve a faithful and loving FATHER? And isn’t it helpful to learn from the Master parent, God our heavenly Father?