Dear growing child,
I’m not sure if you’re in the same stage of life as I am, but I’ve recently been enjoying the gift of getting to know who my mother truly is as a person, rather than simply “my mom.”
For the first time, we don’t share the same address or bathroom. No one is leaving a bunch of dirty dishes in her sink instead of putting them directly into the dishwasher, and no one is concerned with how much hair I leave in the drain after my showers. We no longer see each other every day, or get to talk about everything we would like to share. For the first time, we’re experiencing having to intentionally build our relationship if we wish to have one.
That might sound like it’s a lot of hard work, but honestly I’ve been enjoying what it feels like to know that when my mom and I talk on the phone or put aside time to spend together, it’s because we genuinely want to. There is nothing forcing us to be close anymore, yet I feel like we’ve never been closer. It’s funny how when you remove chores, obligations, and stress from a relationship, suddenly there is freedom to truly appreciate each other for the extraordinary people you are just by existing.
The most beautiful things about my mom are revealed to me during the times when we are freely spending time together and she shares with me things about her that I never knew before. The way she has shown she trusts me with her personal feelings about things that are important to her has allowed me to better understand who she is and better notice all the things that make her so special. But honestly, I’ve realized that all I had to do this whole time was ask her about anything and she would have told me more about herself a long time ago. I was just never interested before now. I never paid attention to her like this before, but she was right there for my entire life.
To have this realization about my mother is one thing, but then it connected to my relationship with God, and it got real.
I’m not sure how often you contemplate the mystery that is the Holy Trinity, but honestly it’s on my mind a lot. Before you start cringing, I’m not trying to get into a big uncomfortable theological debate here. But up until very recently, I’ve always kept them each so separate in my mind. I would view the Holy Spirit as the “helper one” who makes me feel too guilty to make bad choices, Jesus as the “savior one” who is full of love and grace and all the sweetness I’ve always wanted in life, and then God as the “authoritative dad one” who is the head one in charge and always seemed to have his arms crossed against his chest waiting up for me in the living room when I was out past curfew.
I realize now how that perspective is problematic, but for so long I lived in this weird gap of being so in love with Jesus but so resistant to be close to God the Father. I didn’t see how twisted my view of Him has been for far too long, and how much of it is so closely connected to my experience with my own earthly father. If you know me, you probably are aware that my dad passed away when I was 13 years old. It was extremely sudden and traumatic, and changed my entire life. But it wasn’t until recently that God revealed to me how much I had allowed my pain from my earthly father to influence the way I see Him.
For so long, I was afraid to trust His words because I found it hard to believe that He would really stick to them. I wasn’t allowing His love to sink all the way in because I believed deep down that it would eventually fade. I didn’t want to waste time pouring out my entire heart to someone that I couldn’t trust to always be there for me. I couldn’t bring myself to completely open up to someone who made big promises that didn’t seem possible to keep. How do you get excited about a God who paints the most incredible pictures of what your future with Him will be like, when you don’t truly believe you will get a future together? They could be the most beautiful paintings I’ve ever laid eyes on, but if I already assume that it’s only a matter of time before they fall and shatter on the floor, then I really see no point in ever hanging them on my walls in the first place.
So this resulted in an unhealthy relationship with my own Creator, because instead of wanting to know Him for who He truly is as a person, I stopped at the title “father,” and couldn’t see past the only experience I knew with that title. And I know I’m not the only one. This is a broken world, full of tragic dad-stories that the Lord never intended for us. Maybe your dad is never around, or maybe he physically is there but mentally and emotionally is checked-out. Maybe you lost your dad like I did, or maybe he chose to leave. Maybe your dad loves you with only words and never actions, or maybe your dad-story is much more complicated than just one constant man in your life. Maybe your dad is the last person in the world who would ever affirm or encourage you. Your dad might be the last person on your mind entirely, but for some, he has single-handedly destroyed your entire sense of security. If your experience with your dad is the root of many of your wounds, too, then this one’s for you and me.
Our dad-stories have drastically different details, but produce a lot of the same symptoms. Many of us wounded kids have experienced a lot more pain than most people our age have gone through. Many of us have spent way too much time imagining special milestones in our futures without the one person you want there most. Many of us have been forced to grow up much too quickly, and way too many of us have fooled ourselves into thinking that it was our own strength and independence that have gotten us to where we are today.
What tends to happen to us who have such deep scars is we enter into survival mode and never come out of it. We board up the windows of our hearts for protection from the storm, but leave them up even after the hurricane has passed. We believe lies about people who want to love us, because that feels safer than the risk of possibly being hurt again. We believe lies about our own well-being, when clearly we could never truly be better off alone. Worst of all, we believe lies about our Heavenly Father being exactly the same as our earthly one.
The truth that I couldn’t help but share with you is this: your earthly father could never come close to comparing to the One you have in heaven.
I completely understand how difficult it is to separate the two, but I seriously urge you to. Not only does God love you more than any human ever could, He loved you even before He created this entire world. He is not simply a father like we have come to understand the term. He gives all of Himself in love to you, withholding absolutely nothing. He is not sitting around waiting for the next time you mess up so He can punish you. He looks at you and sees a masterpiece He longs to have a deep relationship with. He is more than just “the father,” and He deserves to be pursued and known for who He is as a person.
Even for those who have a fantastic dad in their life, maybe you still have an issue with God because, like many of us, you have come to view Him as the angry one and Jesus as the loving one who saved us from God’s wrath. I just want to clarify that this idea isn’t true, either. God has been given such a bad reputation, when He’s actually the One who has been relentlessly fighting for each of us from the moment we began to form in our mothers’ wombs. He has always been there, our entire lives, waiting to be known by us. He’s the One who always was and always will be. He remains constant when everything around us fails. He took His time creating each of us with intention. He gave us everything. And when we chose sin over Him, He even came to earth in human form and died to close the gap that we created between us – all because He couldn’t stand the idea of an eternity without us. He couldn’t stand the thought of not being able to have a relationship with us. He refuses to rest until reuniting with each of His precious children.
It’s a lot easier to immediately fall in love with who Jesus is, but what I’ve failed to see for so long is that the character of Jesus is the exact same character of God. They are one in the same. Jesus didn’t come to save us from an angry God – God Himself came because He was willing to do whatever it would take to be with us. And to close ourselves off from such a fierce and relentless love because of the pain written in our earthly dad-stories is not only unfair to God, but it’s exactly what the devil wants. Nothing would please who Jesus calls “the prince of this world” more than a bunch of God’s strongest soldiers fighting the wrong enemy because they’ve let their wounds cloud their judgment.
So if there’s anything I could encourage you to do, it would be to dare to truly get to know your Heavenly Father. Trust me; I understand what it’s like to be skeptical. I get what it feels like to hear the Truth, look back at your life, and conclude that it’s too good to ever be true. But I also understand what it’s like to finally feel safe and secure in the hands of God. I now get what it feels like to feel close to my Creator on a personal level. If getting to know who my mother is as a person and not just my mom is exciting, can you imagine how much more of an adventure it is to discover the heart and passions of the One whom I was designed to be in relationship with? It’s time to stop limiting the character of God to the one or two traits that your dad-story has taught you. He is so much more than your wildest dreams could imagine the perfect father to be like. He is worthy of your trust. And if you have been living your Christian life like me all this time, fearfully keeping God at a distance and only wanting to know Jesus, well I’m here to tell you that doesn’t make any sense! If we separate them, we are literally missing the whole point. And though I haven’t mentioned the Holy Spirit yet, He is equally important. It’s only because of Him that we are ever able to understand anything about God at all. It’s His Spirit that connects me through Jesus to Him, and allows me to experience the joy of His presence every day. Without the Spirit, there’s no way our relationship would ever be so personal.
My point is that God really is three in one, and the exact same character can be found in all three. So don’t allow the enemy to keep holding you back from truly living in the freedom found in the radical love of God. I declare you will no longer be fooled into believing that a single ounce of God is not made of love. I challenge you to remove the chores, obligations, and stress from your parent-child relationship with God, and just enjoy being with Him. Pursue Him for who He is as a person. Stop settling for just certain parts of what you’ve been taught a Christian life contains, and finally step into all that He has for you, because there is so much more. Don’t let yourself miss the whole point. Let Him show you the truth about who He really is. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”