I met Emily (not her real name) on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere in central Colorado. Loaded with a huge backpack, completely alone and looking at her map, Emily readily accepted the ride my friends and I offered her. That ride eventually turned into dinner and a long conversation between Emily, my traveling companions and me.
Let me quickly introduce you to Emily:
- Bright and well educated. Emily attends a well-known liberal college in the mid-west.
- Fiercely independent. Emily has been traveling the world alone since she was 17.
- Outspoken. It only took Emily 15 minutes to tell three complete male strangers about her sex life.
- Unbelieving. Emily openly rejects faith and religions. In her words, she simply hasn’t confronted a problem in her brief 21 years that she needed God to help solve.
After about twenty minutes of talking philosophy and religion over dinner, I felt the Lord nudge me to change the subject. I asked Emily the question that I’ve learned to be the most telling I can ask any person:
Can you tell me about your father?
Emily’s demeanor immediately changed. She softened and became more reflective.
Emily’s dad always wanted a boy. He and her mom had two children–Emily and her younger brother. Her brother has special needs due to an accident that happened when he was a baby.
Bottom line: Emily knows she is a disappointment to her father. She knows that he never really got the son he longed for. She lives with the painful awareness that, due to no fault of her own, she isn’t the child her dad wanted.
If that doesn’t mess up your view of God, nothing will.
Sweet Emily, for all of her bluster and posturing, is no different from the rest of us. She took the best and most available picture she had of God and drew the corresponding conclusions.
And yes, in case you missed it, your first impression of God always comes from your dad. In other words, as your relationship with your earthly father goes, so goes your relationship with your heavenly father. That is, until you rethink your heavenly father.
Jesus made it his personal mission to set the record straight about God. His favorite term for God was “father.” He wanted us to know that there really is a father who won’t bail on you, reject you, leave you or pick another family over yours.
That’s the God Jesus came to reveal, and that’s the God my friends and I assured sweet Emily she needs to know.
Do you have issues with faith? Do you struggle with obedience? Do you fear that God will let you down? Think about your relationship with your dad, or your lack thereof. How might it have affected your ability to move in faith?
God is bigger than your dad. He’s the dad you’ve always dreamed of. He’s the dad you run to, not away from.
I’m praying that for sweet Emily.
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. John 1:18
For more information about the dad-image/God-image issue, check out Chapter 3 of my book, A Man Who Told Us the Truth.