“And he will be called … Everlasting Father”
I believe the greatest influence a man will ever have is the influence he has on his kids. Never in a man’s life will influence come easier than it does with his children. It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of the role dads have in the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual development of children. The calling of being a dad is one of the highest callings given by God.
In my 14 years of being a pastor, though, I have talked with many men and women and a consistent theme has come up. It’s a theme that John Eldridge calls “the father wound.” As I’ve talked with men and women, I’ve heard many of them say things like:
- · “My dad was physically present, but not really emotionally present.”
- "My dad was a hard worker, but that’s what he did all of the time. He worked. It was like his job was more important than his kids.”
- “My dad was a hard man. If we broke the rules there would be hell to pay.
- “I never heard my dad say that he was proud of me.”
- “I’m not sure I’ve ever had a ‘real’ conversation with my dad. He never lets me see who he really is. He’s distant and unknown to me.”
- “My dad abused me.”
- “Every day I woke up with a desire to be loved by this man … and every night I went to bed wandering why he seemed to hate me so much.”
As these wounds progress throughout the formative years of childhood, we begin to learn things like:
- I know I want to be loved, but at the end of the day I am not. I need to find intimacy on my own terms, then.
- Accomplishments appear to be more important than character. Work hard, regardless of the cost to those around me.
- I better not mess up because if I do, wrath is on it’s way. Play it safe.
- Don’t ever let anyone get too close. Vulnerability is not safe and a sign of weakness.
- I will prove to my dad I am worthy of his praise, even if he will not give it to me. I need to perform, perform, perform.
- I can’t trust men or anyone in authority. They are out to get me and want to hurt me.
- I’m not sure anyone really enjoys me. I need to gain attention and affection any way I can.
We take these wounds with us in to adulthood and many live their adult lives as those scared little children still seeking to earn the approval and love of their father or continue to live in fear of him and compensate for that in some way. I think this is also one reason why, as a pastor, I have heard many say that it is difficult to relate to God as a “Heavenly Father” because of the way they were treated by their earthly father. Imagine what it is like to learn from the wounds of our earthly fathers and apply them to our Heavenly Father. What would that teach us?
- I know God loves me … I’m just not so sure He enjoys me.
- God is more concerned about what I “do” than who I am becoming in the process.
- I better not mess up. If I do, God is out to punish me.
- I need to earn God’s approval. The more I do for Him, the happier He is with me.
- I cannot trust God.
It’s natural to do this. It speaks to the incredibly powerful influence that dads have on their children. But, this is not the God I know. There’s a certain theme throughout the Old Testament that was used to describe the character of God. And, that theme started in Exodus 33. It’s there that Moses asked God “please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight.” (Exodus 33:13) He then took it even a step further and made an incredibly bold request to God. He asked to see God in all of His glory. Now, what’s amazing is God didn’t shy away from that. He wanted to reveal Himself to Moses, but God said, Moses I cannot show you my glory because no one could survive seeing Me in all of my glory. But, I will allow my goodness to pass in front of you. When God said He would let His goodness pass before Moses, He was in essence saying I will allow my character to be known to you.
In Exodus 34 we see that happen. We’re told that God passed in front of Moses and as He did, God proclaimed His character to Moses. He said, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.” (Exodus 34:6-7a)
This Exodus passage can be discovered all throughout the Old Testament. It’s quoted 7 other times in the Old Testament as a way to describe the character of God. It describes His character as a Heavenly Father … compassionate (He does not leave us alone in this world), gracious (freely given love and acceptance), patient (slow to anger), abounding in love (I want to be in relationship with you and will demonstrate that in the most powerful of ways), faithful (I’m firmly fixed in place. I am not going anywhere.), does not leave the guilty unpunished (Hebrews 12 tells us “For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in His holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” God’s discipline of us is a way to rescue us from our foolishness and not a way to punish us for making Him angry. Jesus already took our deserved wrath on the cross.), forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin (If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. (Psalm 130:3)
What Moses saw only a glimpse of is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. “The Son radiates God's own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.” (Hebrews 1:3) Jesus is our “Everlasting Father” and can heal the wounds of our earthly fathers. Truths like that bring such encouragement to me as a son and as a dad. We can bring those hurts to Him and trust that He will hear us, He will love us, and He will heal us.