Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

First of all, it's a great day to celebrate the gospel of Jesus Christ, who lived on earth to "show us the Father" [John 14] and paid the penalty for all of our sins on The Cross, so that all who trust their lives to Him may become sons & daughters of a perfectly loving Father. I am reminded on this day that my heavenly Father opens His arms to all people everywhere, offering through His Son a restored relationship of perfect & eternal Love. In a world full of competition, striving, abandonment, rejection, despair, etc., all of us have the opportunity to come into a place of acceptance, affirmation, security, wisdom, guidance, and all that we need in this life and forever. Thank you, Father, for Your redeeming Love!

I also thank God for my (earthly) Dad, whose generosity and faithfulness to provide for his family have taught me to trust God's provision and be generous to others. His perseverance to show up at the same place of employment for 53 years was a great example of daily faithfulness through all the ups and downs of life and career - i can hardly believe i'm in my 22nd year with my employer, much less imagine another 31 years! And it has always been relatively easy for me to trust God's provision and give freely to others, as i've seen my Dad provide well for 6 children and 10 grandchildren - not spoiling, but helping & rewarding wisely, sometimes in surprisingly inspired ways: when my 3 daughters were in diapers and our income was barely sufficient for basic needs, I used to pray, "Lord, i need laundry soap, diapers..." (with twins born 14 months after my first child, diapers were a major expense for a while!) Without my having said a word to him, Dad showed up on my front porch more than once with the requested items, almost as if God had handed him a list! If Pastor Jack Hayford is right that "prosperity is not measured by what you have, but by what you have given away," then my Dad is a very wealthy man indeed.

I am also thankful for all the pastors, teachers, coaches, brothers, uncles, good neighbors and other men who father people of all ages in this most fatherless generation of all time. Eugene Petersen paraphrases St. Paul: "There are a lot of people around who can't wait to tell you what you've done wrong, but there aren't many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up. It was as Jesus helped me proclaim God's Message to you that I became your father. I'm not, you know, asking you to do anything that I'm not already doing myself." [I Corinthians 4:15-16 The Message] Thank God for men who give their hearts to Him and express the Father's heart for others through their example, guidance, patient instruction, kindness, stability, wisdom, and consistent love.

Yet all of us - including fathers, at any age - need the Father, our only truly unshakable Source of guidance and Love. We need to know the freedom of living as children of God, not alone in this life, who have favor and access to the One knows everything and provides for all we need. In promising to send the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." [John 14:18] He promised to send us a Teacher, Counselor, Comforter, Standby, who would never leave us alone to fend for ourselves, who would be with us and even live in us, to show us daily all that belongs to us in God and how to live it out on this earth.

As i was praying recently for two male friends whose natural and spiritual fathers "graduated" to heaven this past month - kind, caring men whose fathers were teachers, and who are themselves fathers and teachers - i was touched by these words from the cover of John Eldredge's book, The Way of the Wild Heart: "We live in a time where most men (and boys) are essentially fatherless. Whatever their circumstance, they have no man actually taking them through the many adventures, trials, battles and experiences they need to shape a masculine heart within them. They find themselves on their own to figure life out, and that is a lonely place to be. Their fears, anger, boredom, and their many addictions all come out of this fatherless place within them, a fundamental uncertainty in the core of their being. But there is a way."

Eldredge writes for men of all ages and situations: "We aren't meant to figure life out on our own. God wants to father us. The truth is, He has been fathering us for a long time - we just haven't had the eyes to see it. He wants to father us much more intimately, but we have to be in a posture to receive it. What that involves is a new way of seeing, a fundamental reorientation of how we look at life, and our situation in it. First, we allow that we are unfinished men, partial men, mostly boy inside... in many, many ways. Second, we turn from our independence and all the ways we either charge at life or shrink from it; this may be one of the most basic and most crucial ways that a man repents. I say 'repent' because our approach to life is based on the conviction that God, for the most part, doesn't show up much. I understand where the conviction came from, battle it constantly myself, but still - it's faithless, is it not? We must be willing to take an enormous risk, and open our hearts to the possibility that God is initiating us as men - maybe even in the very things in which we thought He'd abandoned us. We open ourselves up to being fathered.

"I'll admit, it doesn't come easily. A sort of fundamental mistrust is something we learn through the course of our days, built on that core mistrust in God we inherited from Adam. Making the switch will feel awkward. As Gerald May says, the more we've become accustomed to seeking life apart from God, the more 'abnormal and stressful' it seems 'to look for God directly.' Especially as a Father, fathering us. But it is worth it. It is worth it. Worth allowing ourselves to be fathered, accepting that this new way of living will take some getting used to, and taking the posture that we'll do whatever it takes to get used to it."

Eldredge encourages his male readers to "reframe the way we look at our lives as men. And the way we look at our relationships with God. I also want to help you reframe the way you relate to other men, and especially you fathers who are wondering how to raise boys. The reframing begins when we see that a man's life is a process of initiation into true masculinity. It is a series of stages we soak in and progress through. And as for God, I believe that what He is primarily up to at any point in a boy's or a man's life is initiating him. So much of what we misinterpret as hassles or trials or screw-ups on our part are in fact God fathering us, taking us through something in order to strengthen us, or heal us, or dismantle some unholy thing in us. In other words, initiate us - a distinctly masculine venture."

This Father's Day - as we honor our earthly fathers, teachers, mentors & friends - i pray that all of us would allow our heavenly Father to draw close and bring us into greater intimacy with Himself. May our appreciation of fatherhood, and our awareness of spiritual sonship, grow and deepen in the days ahead.

"For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." [Ephesians 3:14-21 NKJV]

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