I remember the day I became a father. It was twelve years ago on a Sunday evening; just a week after Easter. The birth capped off a very long, difficult, and sleepless weekend that had started two days before. It’s hard to remember all the details of the labour, but from what I do remember, I know that I probably could not have endured all that my wife endured.
I think its amazing that God lets us forget all the hard parts of experiences like these. When my wife and I talk about it, mostly we talk about the funny moments and those times that God’s grace was most evident. It’s probably for the best that we are blessed with this kind of amnesia. I’m not sure that we would have brought three more beautiful children into the world if we couldn’t forget the more difficult memories.
The most amazing part of the experience for me was meeting my daughter for the first time. She had to be delivered by emergency C-section. I had been present in the operating room, and after the delivery, I left my wife in the hands of the medical staff in order to accompany my new born child to NICU. Once there, she was checked out and then I helped to bathe her for the first time. After that, we were left alone for a while. I remember her turning her head and looking directly into my eyes and something was communicated between us. The experience pierced my soul. Prior to that moment, I was pretty sure that I believed in love at first sight; after that moment I was convinced! I remember thinking, “I’ve been waiting for you!”
At some point a few hours later, I was able to go home to have a shower and get a bit of sleep. Somewhere between the hospital and home I had an epiphany: “That’s how God sees me!” That’s how he sees us!
I know that revelation of this nature doesn’t fit neatly with some common doctrine, but it sure helped me to be able to connect the dots. On Mars Hill, Paul says to the Athenians, “as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man…” (Acts 17:28b-29a NASB). Paul’s purpose here is to teach that we do not create gods, but that God has created us and that there is a relationship between God and us. Indeed, Paul speaks of this relationship, and something of the nature of God, when he uses the words, “Being then the children of God…”
We are God’s children, and this understanding of God as Father relating to his children is consistent with the relationship with God that Jesus introduces us to in the Gospels. In Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells the story of the lost or prodigal son. This has become a most beloved story, and its themes of repentance and reconciliation are much celebrated in songs like Amazing Grace. The most profound thing in this story for me however is not the repentance of the son, but rather the tenderness of the father. The father in the story represents God the Father and he is not indifferent. He is compassionate, and indeed as Jesus’ story attests, he is actively searching for his son in his lostness; actively searching for us in our lostness.
Becoming a father taught me both something about God the Father’s love for his children, and something about a father’s sacred responsibility. As a father, the deep love I felt for my child, a child who had not yet had time to earn my love, is but a pale reflection of the unearned love that God has for his children, and everything I am as a father is but a pale reflection of God the Father, in whose image I was made.
Thinking on these things, I can here him say, “I’ve been waiting for you!” To all you dads; Happy Father’s Day