‘How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’
I’ve heard it said that people really knew what it was like to see God as a father when they had their own children; they were overwhelmed with love for those newly arrived in their care. I love this. I love that there is an overwhelming, all encompassing love that a parent feels for a child, that is a mere fraction of what God feels for us. What an awesome thought! But I’m not a parent (and I’m certainly never going to be a father). It’s hard to acknowledge that maybe I will never know quite what that love feels like from a parental perspective.
But over the last year, this passage has come to have a depth and meaning that has surpassed my previous understanding. I haven’t given birth, don’t worry, you’ve not missed something vital.
I was a typically ungrateful teenager. I didn’t see the sacrifices my parents made for me, consider their emotions and investments in the choices I made, or feel at times like they really understood me. My choice of school cost a fortune in train fares that I took for granted, and my burgeoning relationship took the place of spending time with my parents. I wasn’t dramatically rebellious, I never even dyed my hair, but I don’t think I was a picnic either (sorry Mum and Dad!).
I grew out of it, eventually – hopefully they think so too – and settled into adult life, marriage, career, responsibilities. But still I didn’t quite fathom this depth of love.
And then – Separation. Divorce. Career change. Moving.
And I turned to my parents for support.
What could my Dad, or indeed my Mum, do? Well, nothing. They couldn’t make it better, go away, come back or sort anything out for me. There was quite literally nothing they could do to make the situation better. It’s a helpless position for a parent to be in – one of the hardest I would think.
And I imagine God feels the same. He has given us free will and therefore lets us make mistakes and potentially damage the lives of ourselves and others, just as our parents must release us as teenagers to make our own possibly destructive decisions. He feels the depths of sadness our parents do when met with our losses. I believe God was as sad over the end of my marriage as I was.
God’s generosity, his depth of overwhelming love, is seen as a glimpse through the love of our parents. Despite my bad decisions, my rebellious teenager times, and the pain and heartache I’ve caused them, they’ve never stopped loving me, although I would entirely understand if they may not have liked me all that much at times. God’s desire to give good gifts to his children led him to give us Jesus: a perfect sacrifice for sin who we reject because we’re angry our world isn’t perfect or, like teenagers, are convinced we’ve got it sorted pretty good ourselves thanks.
The Bank of Parent doles out loans to its particular customers who might find themselves in financial straits. It provides bridging loans to those who decide to move house without having sold the other one first (ahem..), and it creates repayment plans that mean the debt might be written off this side of eternity. Possibly. It responds to the slightly heretical ‘my debts are gone’ text from the borrower with ‘you’ve been set free’.
My parents pray for me every day, love me like no one else, and continually champion who I am and what I do, while challenging me to be a better me.
Since being separated, I realised how much they have my back. They are the ones I talk the decisions through with, and the ones who urge me on, all the while I know I can fall back on their love, support and guidance, even if I make a bad decision. Sometimes there’s been nothing they could do other than hold me and reassure me they were there; so that’s what they did. They give good gifts to their children; sometimes in the literal and the practical, but also in the lasting love and championing of us, the enduring support. I can’t fathom the thought of life without them.
Maybe your experience is not as good, and I’m sorry. I know how fortunate I am, and that for some seeing God as a father is painful and unpleasant. But God would have given the gift of Jesus just for you, even if there was only you. That’s how much this Heavenly Father loves you.
I will never be a father. I may never be a parent. But if the love of my parents reveals only a tiny fraction of God’s love for me, I am simply overwhelmed by its magnitude. Thank you Dad and Mum, for faithfully being a glimpse of what I will one day see in full. And thank you God, for giving me this Mum and Dad, through whom I can see just how much you must love me.