who you are
I find it funny and challenging that God is called our father so frequently in the Church, because fatherhood is such a beautiful expression of the brokenness of humanity. It’s a hard role to do right and it’s a relationship that has the potential to bring a lot of hurt, a lot of damage, and a lot of shame. Maybe that’s why God being our father is so radical. Like grace, the idea of a perfect father is something that’s hard for me to imagine.
We all have fathers- and that means something different for all of us. It’s a statement that writes a million different stories of heartbreak and togetherness, joy and pain, abandonment and support. I don’t know what your father is like, but I do know that who he is and what he’s done has impacted who you are.
My dad was a human. Funny and outgoing, he made friends wherever he went, loved singing loudly to rap music in his car and was my go-to brownie sundae date. Even though he’s not around these days, I still look a lot like him. If I showed you a picture, you might realize why I’m so short and you’d recognize that we have the same nose. You’d understand where my older brother got his wild curly hair, and if you could’ve seen them walking side by side you would discover that my little brother inherited my dad’s signature swagger. I look a lot like him, but we’re similar in other ways too. Our shared hatred for being late, inability to sit still when music comes on, and the struggle we both face touching our toes without meticulous stretching just scratch the surface. We were so similar, that I always knew how to push his buttons and he knew how to bug me too. There were days growing up when I would get sent to my room, find myself in trouble, or be grounded for breaking the rules. Although it wasn't always smooth sailing, it’s silly to think that any of these things could change the truth of our relationship. He loved me unconditionally and no matter what, he was my dad. If we had never met, he would still be my father. His blood flows through my veins and his quirks and personality traits have become my own. Not even death had the power to change the fact that he is my father and I am his daughter; it’s a part of who I am and it’s been true from the moment I was created.
We might not always see it this way, but the same is true with God. Whether we accept or reject him, it doesn’t change the fact that he's our father. Like a parent, he has loved you from the moment you were created with a rebellious love that is not based on how well you are doing in school, what you did last weekend, or how often you call him. Our role as sons and daughters of God is not conditional. I didn’t become his daughter when I accepted him as Lord, I was just realizing something that had always been true about me. It’s like getting your DNA checked and learning that your ancestors came from Italy, Germany, and France. Your discovery of your ancestry was not the determining factor in your genetic make-up. You had always been from those places, and your great-great-great grandma had lived in France loooong before you ever sent in that little cheek swab of saliva. You were just discovering who you were, who you had always been, and who you were created to be. The same thing happens when we realize we are God’s beloved.
Because we are his sons and daughters, we look like God in a lot of ways. This familial relationship doesn’t make us any less human, but once you begin learning about the character of God his presence in each of us is undeniable. In Genesis chapter one, God created everything and intentionally made us in his image. I think he did this so that through our relationships, we can point each other to God.
My resemblance to my Dad didn’t change after he died: I still have his nose and we still share the same silly dance moves. He isn’t alive anymore, but I see glimpses of him in my siblings, reminding me that he’s always with us. In the same way - although we cannot see God - we can find him in one another. In the New City Catechism, edited by Collin Hansen, it says that “God’s likeness glimpsed in us testifies that we belong to him, body and soul.” Each one of us has inherited his characteristics making us living proof of his love for this world.
We can’t even change it if we wanted to. There is nowhere we can run to escape the love of God. You can change your name and your hair-color, live on your own and never talk to your parents again, but that doesn’t change the fact that their genes are pulsing through your body with each heartbeat, like a drum calling you back to where you came from.
Here’s the best part: when we decide to accept our role as the children of God we acquire the inheritance of the mightiest king in the universe, and it’s completely free. We’ve done nothing to deserve it and we can’t do anything to earn it. When we make the decision to follow God with our lives, the glory of Jesus – his perfect report card and blameless track record – is counted as our own. It’s like a birthday present: completely free, and given to you just for existing, but it’s not counted as yours until you accept the gift and rip off the paper.
It doesn’t matter how broken your relationship with your earthly father may be. When it comes to God our father, there are no hoops we need to jump through. There is no grade we need to make and no points to be scored to earn his attention: all we need to do is run back into his arms, rip off the wrapping paper, and realize the love that’s always been there.