Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. – Jesus (Matthew 6:9-13)
I remember how jarring it was the first time I heard my high school friend Dicky Steinberg, a Jewish Christian, pray out loud.
“Hey Dad, it’s me Dicky. We all just want you to know how much we love you…”
There was certainly nothing incredibly poetic about that 16 year-old’s prayer. But what it lacked in eloquence it made up for in brazen intimacy.
I’d grown up in a Baptist church in the same little Alabama town as Dicky. I was used to people praying in public, but something about my classmate Dicky’s prayer made me catch my breath. There was a tenderness, a confidence in God’s acceptance that I’d rarely heard before.
Every time I heard Dicky pray, I thought in my heart, “That’s what I want. I want God to be my daddy. I want someone wise and powerful who knows me completely, but loves me just as completely.” Thanks to Dicky’s friendship, I found that relationship I was longing for. And I’ve since discovered over the years that I’m not alone in that longing…
Everyone needs a dad.
That’s not a popular idea these days. There’s lots of talk about single moms being good enough without the irresponsible baby-daddies who walked away. I honor those great, heroic women who’ve raised children alone.
But in honoring the sacrifice of single moms, we should never diminish the importance of fathers. And I’m afraid that’s exactly what happens sometimes.
Sure, great women have raised great kids without help of the biological father. And while having no father is probably better than having a bad one, no child is better off for not having grown up with a truly good father. There’s always a vacuum that’s left, most often a wound, when a good father is not present.
I know this is true, because of my own turbulent relationship with my dad. He was physically present when I was growing up, but we were never close. And his emotional absence has left a scar that, though mostly healed now in my adult years, will never fully go away.
And I’m not the only one nursing a wound. Sit in a room full of men screening the movie Field of Dreams and witness the tears flow. Talk with a high school guidance counselor about the girls in her school who act out sexually. Most of them have a strained, negative or non-existent relationship with their fathers.
It’s no coincidence. Not having a good father can leave a crippling wound, one that some of us never overcome.
I know some of those walking wounded. I see the anger in my adult male friends, who go through life trying to prove their manhood in destructive ways. They never had a dad to show them the quiet confidence of Godly masculinity.
And I’ve known plenty of women, with a wound so raw they would lash out at you in rage if you ever pointed it out. They hate men, probably due to being victimized by an evil father-figure, or at least being ignored by an impotent one. They retreat from the male world and see all men as either aggressors or disappointments.
I remember how jarring it was when I was trying to explain my position on an issue with a female friend. Suddenly, she went on the attack and accused me of “man-splaining” to her. That’s the term coined for when men think of woman is ignorant simply because she is female. Funny thing is I never meant to patronize the woman at all. But that’s when I discovered it’s actually a convenient way to disarm someone who disagrees with you…
You don’t have to rebut their argument. They are rendered irrelevant, simply by the existence of an extra chromosome. How convenient.
I believe the need for a father is something more than just psychological, though Freud milked those implications for all they’re worth. One thing he said about religion was he felt our longing for God was really just an extension of our desire for a father. Just as a father protects us in the home, we look to God to protect us in the world from harm.
Freud would say that proves God is just a construct of our desires, that we’ve created the idea of God to meet that psychological need. I do believe Freud was on to something, only he seems to have gotten the whole thing backward…
We indeed have that nagging desire for a heavenly Father because God programmed it in our psyche. He knew we’d be ill-equipped to make it through this life alone, so He placed an internal homing beacon within us that constantly points back to Him, back toward our true Home.
Like the birds flying south for the winter when strong winds blow, He programmed our hearts to head home to Daddy.
They say men are what they do. Our occupations and activities define our identities. When you meet a guy, the first thing you ask is usually, “What do you do for a living?”
If that’s so, then more than anything, I’m a dad. That one word defines me now more than any job or hobby.
And interestingly enough, that’s just how God defined Himself to us.
When Jesus’ followers asked Him to teach them how to pray, He directed the prayer’s opening salutation in the most revolutionary of ways. Here God defined Himself to humanity not as fire on a mountaintop, nor with the illusive name He told Moses to call Him, “I am that I am”. Nor did He fall back on the name dropping of their ancestral fathers as “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”.
No, none of those communicated what God wanted to get across to His people now. Now that His Son was standing in front of them, He felt at liberty to reveal His heart in the greatest level of transparency ever.
At the start of the most famous prayer ever written, the Almighty God who created the universe and all that is in it looked at scruffy beings made of dust and breath and said, “Just call me ‘Dad’…”
Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your Name…
This was the first time God told His people to call Him that. And it is that name that sets Christianity apart from all the other competing religions of the world. Because in this one faith, God is not a concept or a philosophy or a list of rules.
In this faith, God is personal.
Those words from the Lord’s Prayer ring with familiarity to us now, but to 1st century Jews, they sounded like something pretty close to blasphemy. I can only imagine the thoughts of those who overheard Him…
How could the great unknowable, untouchable God, want us to call Him ‘Father’? The immutable One who separated Himself from humanity behind a curtain several feet thick in the Temple’s Holy of Holies; how could He suggest we refer to Him in such a familiar manner? How could His holiness and hatred of our sin allow for such a common term of endearment?
His choice of that name is no mistake. This is no casual, off-the-cuff moniker God is giving Himself. This is a declaration of who God says He is most of all. Just like me, if you asked God what He does for a living, He’d tell you He’s a father.
***And in that simple name we can find the key to who He is, who we are, and what He is doing every day in our lives…
If you want to know who God really is, understand He is your Father.
If you want to know who you really are, understand you are His child.
If you want to know why God allows some of the unfathomably painful events in your life and doesn’t stop them, understand He’s not a soft grandfather. He’s your Father.
That one name is the key to everything…literally everything in your life.
And I’ve found that as I learn more about being a dad, I’m actually learning the most about how His heart works. I see how much it hurts me when my kids are in pain, but how part of fathering is allowing painful lessons rather than shielding every hurt.
So let me ask you a personal question: Do you long for a good Father like I do?
Want to be adopted? Well, I know someone who’s just waiting to snatch you up in His arms and make you His own. Someone who wants to protect you and guide you and love you in spite of your faults. Someone you can talk to like my friend Dicky talked to Him, intimately and tenderly.
Someone who, more than anything, wants you to call Him “Daddy”. And since we all feel a little like lost children on the inside, who doesn’t want that?
Everyone does needs a dad, though few have ever had a truly good one. But the good news is God indeed wants to be everyone’s dad. Yes, even yours. He put that unquenchable desire for a loving father inside you.
Of all the things you’ll experience in this life, He is your greatest need and the potential source of your greatest joy.
So…let me introduce you to a Father who never stops adopting new children. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re pretty or smart, strong or weak. If you simply say yes, you’ll be His. And He’ll be your Father.