I’m looking forward to my first Father’s Day card this Sunday (although Caleb may need some help writing the card this year!).
I suspect the day will be greeted with a mixture of emotions. Some of you will have very positive memories of growing up with your father and will welcome the opportunity to express your appreciation. For others, the day will feel difficult. Perhaps because you didn’t know your biological father, or because he was neglectful or abusive. This is the painful reality for many.
In 2013, the Centre for Social Justice produced a report that estimated one million children were growing up without any meaningful relationship with their fathers. Christian Guy, then the director of the CSJ described the crisis, “For children growing up in some of the poorest parts of the country, men are rarely encountered in the home or in the classroom. This is an ignored form of deprivation that can have profoundly damaging consequences on social and mental development.”
As well as being a national tragedy (and part of the pervasive impact of human sin on family life), there is often an added difficulty for Christians, who, as a consequence, can struggle with the idea of God the Father. It leaves them feeling cold or confused. Sometimes Christians project the flaws of their own biological father onto God. God feels absent because their father was absent.
And yet, I think that is precisely the opposite place God wants us to end up. Of course, it’s absolutely right to recognise the limitations of your biological father and to go through the necessary business of forgiving him for the very real sins of failing to care for and love his family. However, this feeling of frustration and sense of lack should also drive us to our knees to approach the only perfect father who ever lived, asking that, by his Spirit, we might grasp the fullness of what it means to be children of the living God and to experience the joy, affirmation and security that comes with that.
No earthly parent will be perfect but we have a perfect father who is redefining for us what good parenting looks like. He has outrageous love and strong discipline. He comes with tenderness but is willing to rebuke us in love. He’s persistently faithful and wonderfully sacrificial (giving up his own son for us). Whatever our experience of biological fathers, we have a heavenly Father who is the answer to the deepest longings of our souls.