Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds[a];
rejoice before him—his name is the LORD.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling. (Psalm 68:4-5)
On this Father's Day 2011, I am so grateful for my father.
He and my mother instilled the values of our faith in me from the earliest days I can remember. He worked multiple jobs while I was young so that my mother could stay at home with their children (4 of us in a five year period!). And yet I never remember thinking that he was not around enough. When he was there he was there.
He began taking me to Alabama football games when I was 8 years old, something that had to be a bigger sacrifice financially than I could possibly have imagined as a child. In doing so, he gave me a gift that is with to this day, and has been passed on to our entire family. I still enjoy going to games with him.
I could go on and on. He showed how big his heart is during the most difficult times in his life, as he cared for his grandchild Holly during one period and then my mother in her last days. He gives himself completely to those he loves, and especially when they are most in need.
If I had to sum up in one word the most important image of God in the Scriptures, it's "Father". In fact, Jesus and Paul both made it very clear that he's not just our father, but he wants such an intimate relationship with us that he wants us to think of him as "Daddy". For those of us with loving fathers, that's a fantastic image.
But I have friends whose fathers are nothing like God. Abusive, distant, obsessed with work, self-absorbed, and even some who have abandoned their families. What about those people? How do they get past those things when they think about God? And how about the 147 million orphans in the world? They don't even have a father to compare to. What are they supposed to think?
I think we can find the answer in Scriptures like the one at the top of this page. When God says that he is our Father, he is not just drawing a nice, cozy analogy to give us the warm fuzzies. I believe that description is designed precisely to quench the desire that is in all of us for someone to love and protect us like a father. Even fathers who love us to the best of their abilities fall way short of God's ideal. You have a great father? Awesome! But his love for you is nothing...nothing...compared to your heavenly Father's love. So we all need God to love us, protect us, provide for us - do all the things a father does but way better.
So our Creator knows exactly what we need. He fills in the gap for us who have great, but not perfect, fathers. He pours out his love in bundles to those who have (or had) terrible fathers, providing them the love they never knew from an earthly source. And those with no fathers? Oh, they are loved beyond what they could ever imagine. Their Father has filled his Word with admonitions to the rest of us, warning us that one of the most important things we must do is to take care of them. If we are obedient to our Father, we will be part of showing his plan to be "a father to the fatherless".
God has not chosen to bless me with the privilege of being a father. But he puts people in my path every day who need to be loved. Family. Friends. Coworkers. And he asks me to expand my path and find those people. In town and around the world. It's my prayer that I will have my eyes and ears open to look for the times when he wants me to be his hands and feet as he executes his desire to show what a father's love really is.