Most of what follows was written in 2007, a couple months before my Dad succumbed to cancer.
“I believe in God,
the Father Almighty,”
Before I go into what I have to say, let’s deal with the elephant in the room. It says, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty,” not “I believe in God, the Parent Almighty.” Do I believe that God is masculine? If you mean to ask me if God is XY, with balls the size of planets, no. But neither am I so touch-feely that I believe I must cater to the sensibilities of the odd passing gender feminist who gets the vapors at the thought of anything male. The Creed reads, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty”, and I don’t believe my petty preferences should override the wisdom of centuries.
(Now if someone will revive Martha, who fainted when I used the word “balls”, I will continue.)
When I think of the word “Father,” I have so many images that flood my mind. My own dad, and my memories of him as I grew up. I remember going camping with my family and how Dad led in the fun. I remember Dad playing ball with my brothers and I, hitting the ball to us as we played 500. I remember Dad reading Pogo to us. (That will give you a clue about my skewed sense of humor.) Dad worked hard and planned for our family’s provisions.
I have memories of him correcting us, as well. Dad was stern, concerned with the kind of people his kids would turn out to be. He wanted us to be good. And when I say ‘good,’ I don’t mean that we weren’t annoying, but he wanted us to have good characters. I remember one incident of Dad’s wrath that illustrates this. When I was young, I had apparently heard someone use the word “n*gger,” and not knowing what it meant, I made the mistake of repeating it in Dad’s presence. Well, as the saying goes, Dad went ballistic, and while I didn’t get a walloping, I got one of the severest talking-to’s that ever a kid received. But his concern about my character stills shines through that incident.
And my Dad modeled God the Father for me. He wants to give to us the best life we could have. In talking with my 86-year-old mom, recently, I heard a surprise statement: “We were poor in those days, but we were happy.” Really Mom? We were poor? We kids never knew that. We may have been poor, but but our lives were full. Camping, fishing, swimming. Apple- and berry-picking, campfires and marshmallow roasts. We were too busy having fun to realize we were poor.
And the Father knows that we have to live out our lives, too, where we are. (For some reason, that old Roger Miller song comes to mind. “You can’t roller-skate in a buffalo herd, but you can be happy, if you’ve a mind to.”)
God gives us what we need to live, and knows that how we will live is determined by our choices; knowing this, He still lets us choose how our lives play out. But, He isn’t indifferent. While He lets us make our choices, He’s always there, urging us, “Choose right. Choose life.” He’s always there, offering grace, offering help, if we will call to Him.
We are in the care of a God who loves us as His sons and daughters. Just as I can look back over my life and see that plans that Dad carried out for us, for our good, I can see the same from the hand of God.
Dads have an awesome responsibility. What our children will think of God as father will be molded by how they perceive us as fathers.