Restoring the Heart of the Father
Understanding God as our Father and truly leaning into a relationship with Him through that paradigm has many challenges in our generation. It is clear that God wants to engage with us in this way because in the book of John alone God is referred to as Father over one hundred times. I, myself, have been on a journey to truly see God this way and understand what it means for Him to love me as His son. My personal challenges have been the walls I created as a child to protect myself from the pain of disappointing people. I spent many years trying to earn my Dad’s approval and never really feeling like I ever had. It took us years into my adulthood before we developed what I would now consider a strong father-son relationship. In general, many of us have painful experiences from fathers, leaders, or pastors that have made it hard to envision the Father that God wants to be. In reality, this blog cannot address all of the intricacies that we as people need to address in order to see God for who He is to us.
I want to spend some time on one thought: discipline from a good father creates intimacy. At the core of what we are talking about is being intimate with God at a level that we see Him, trust Him and love Him as Dad. In every mentor/father relationship I have had in my life, discipline and correction drew us closer. As a matter of fact Hebrews 12:5-6 says it like this,
“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ``My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
A word of encouragement? This passage even goes on to say that discipline is a sign of sonship and those who aren’t disciplined are illegitimate children. Now, before you tune out thinking this is a, “suck it up and say yes sir,” blog just wait a moment. I am the first to admit that for years and still in certain cultures people have used this scripture to control and manipulate others. The church at times has used control as the primary leadership quality. My concern is that we over-correct so much that we forget the value of obedience. We cannot forsake the importance of this aspect of our relationship because we are scared of legalism.
We must be careful of liking the idea of a god who just answers needs and doesn’t give correction. The mantra of this generation is, “do what makes you happy,” but what if what makes me happy grieves my Father? In my pursuit to understand God’s heart as the good Father, I have to accept every aspect of what that means. I have to assess if I have truly given Him the right to shape my life.
The most challenging aspect to this is that God most often likes to do this through other people. I have learned that my ability to be open to correction from leaders and allow myself to be disciplined by them is a direct reflection of how healthy my relationship with Him is. When I feel close to my Father, I am wide open to the voice from the leaders in my life. Time with Him softens my heart, empowers me to trust, and makes me confident in where I stand with others. When I am distant from Him-- I am defensive, guarded and insecure about what my leaders think.
The greatest mentor I have had in my life is a man named Doug Reid, who is currently the pastor at Coast City Church in Oceanside, California. He has been the primary voice God has used to shape me for over the last fifteen years and in that time we have had some powerful moments. We have had tons of fun and amazing celebration moments. We have done some awesome things in ministry together. We have allowed each other deep access into our personal lives, as well as remain connected in ministry. But in all of the high points, it was really the brutally honest conversations that galvanized our relationship. There have been so many moments where he corrected, rebuked and ultimately challenged me to live up to my calling. As I allowed myself to be open to these moments we drew closer. Whenever we came out of them and I was able to look back at the growth I received, gratitude grew in me for him. I realized early on that this was a relationship God had brought together and he wanted to use this relationship to give me a better understanding of Him. I was blessed to find a great mentor early but I also had to engage and let him be like a dad to me. A dad that has encouraged me and shown me crazy grace, but also a dad who kicked my butt when I needed it.
Learn to hear God’s voice in everything. Allow the mentors in your life access to everything. Don’t only give them permission to compliment you, but ask them to disciple you and in this you will find the complete heart of God as your Father. One that leads with profound grace and continues with an invitation to intimacy through discipline.