By Kelli Young
One of the most important things for us to learn as Christians is that God wants to have a real and personal relationship with us. God lives and works in real time and the things in our life matter to Him. Whether it is as “small” as helping you find something that you lost or as big as saving your life by helping you avoid a car wreck, God wants to be involved in your everyday life. When He created Adam and Eve, His original plan was to have a personal relationship with them, and He still wants that now with us.
2 Corinthians 6:18 (REV)
And I will be to you a Father, and you will be to me sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.
God is the original Father and as His children, He wants us to look to Him as the head of our family. Over the past year and a half I have had to learn this through a difficult time. In December of 2013 I lost my Dad very suddenly and unexpectedly. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to go through in my life. One of the things that made it so difficult was that I had a wonderful Dad. For 26 years of my life I had a Dad who loved me unconditionally; who taught me right from wrong; who taught me how to be tough and work hard; who taught me that relationships with people are the most important thing on this Earth; who showed me how a man should treat his wife and children; and whether I needed advice, money, a hug, a distraction, or someone to defend me, my Dad was someone I could always count on. When I lost my Dad, I lost a great man and role model in my life. But over the past 18 months, God has been teaching me and showing me that He wants a relationship with me that is just as real as my relationship with my Dad was.
One night I dreamt about two very specific memories with my Dad. When I woke up I had the biggest smile on my face. They were short, simple memories of my Dad hugging me. I was so thankful that God had brought these to my mind and I cherished these memories. About a week later when someone was praying for me, she said that God wanted me to lean into Him just as I used to lean into my Dad’s arms. This pulled at my heart and was so real to me because those memories were so fresh in my mind, and I knew God was trying to tell me something. God is the original Father and Creator, He is the one who gave us our earthly fathers, and He is the perfect example of what a Father should be. He wants to be our Father in every aspect of our lives, if we will only let Him.
I know that not everyone has the same experience with their Dads as I did. I know that I am truly blessed to have had such a wonderful father. It makes me sad to think that some people don’t have this wonderful role model of what a father should be. The Adversary does this on purpose! There is such an attack on fatherhood in today’s world. Why? Because the devil doesn’t want us to know what a father (God) is supposed to be. Take a look at some primetime television. The “American Dad” is portrayed as a beer-drinking, sports-loving fool who doesn’t know how to handle his children and gets fed up with his nagging wife. And yes, a lot of times this caricature is funny, but that is the example that is being set. The Devil wants people to think negatively of their fathers. To the fathers who are reading this, I am not saying that ALL fathers are bad; obviously I had a great Dad. But looking at the world around us, we see a lot of people who have negative experiences with their Dads, so we have to work overtime to help people realize that God being our Father is a positive thing.
So how do we know what a father is supposed to be? And how do we make our relationship with God the Father a real one? We look to the word of God, of course! There is no one better to tell us about fatherhood than the original Father Himself. Have you ever read the first chapter of Genesis and looked at what God says about all of His creations? After five days of creating, “God saw that it was good,” (Genesis 1:25b). But keep reading:
Genesis 1:27, 31
27) “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
31) …And God saw all that He had made, and it was VERY good.”
God created us to be like Him, in His image, and that means we think like Him, feel like Him, communicate like Him, and relate to others like He does. As humans, we long for connections with others. Our innermost beings crave human connections and intimacy—and I don’t mean physical intimacy, but a personal intimacy. Why do we crave that? Because our Creator craves that also! He made us to want relationships because that is what He wants with us.
When Adam and Eve were in the Garden and first sinned, God could have easily said, “Well, that didn’t work out. Let’s try again,” and wiped out humankind. Why didn’t He do that? Well, for the same reason that loving parents don’t kill their children every time they make a mistake: because He loves us! God saw that what He created was very good, and it was still very good even though they messed up and would have to suffer the consequences of their actions.
One of the most loving things that our Heavenly Father has given us is free will. He created us as humans and gave us the choice to do what we want with our lives, and that includes whether we choose to love Him or not. God didn’t create us to be robots that worshipped Him automatically and without question. He created us with a logical mind that would hopefully see His benevolence and love for us, which would result in us worshipping Him out of love and respect.
When I was 18 and deciding where to go to college I had lots of options in front of me. I ended up choosing a private school about 8 hours from home. My parents had laid out the pros and cons of some different schools for me and they preferred a closer to home, less expensive school, but like loving parents they allowed me to make the decision since I would be the one attending and paying the tuition. And I admit there were times when I did wish I was closer to home or that I was accruing less debt, but those were the consequences of my decision. Thankfully I had parents willing to co-sign loans and help me travel home when I needed to. And God does the same thing! Of course He wants the best for us and always wants us to obey Him, but He does not force us to. Just like any loving parent, He will sit with us and lay out pros and cons of a decision we are making. Some of the ways He does this include: through His word, seeking Him in prayer, or speaking through others in our lives, God has many ways of talking to us. And He wants to talk to us! He wants us to seek Him diligently and to be involved in our lives. Sometimes He will flat out tell us not to do something, and yet we do it anyway and then we have to suffer the consequences of that choice. But being the loving Father that He is, God will never abandon us or leave us for orphans (John 14:18), He will be with us to guide us and help us through whatever life brings our way.
If we take a look at the parable of the Lost/Prodigal Son (Luke 15), we see that it was in the context of two other parables about the lost sheep and the lost coin. The underlying lesson in these parables is that every sheep, coin, and person is valuable and precious to God. God does not leave us when we are lost, but diligently searches for us and rejoices when we are found. Jesus told these particular parables because the Pharisees and religious leaders at the time were slandering him for spending his time with tax collectors and sinners. I just love that, because it shows how God is not prejudiced. He does not care what we look like, what our profession is, or what clothes we wear; He cares about the heart.
The story of the lost son is about the youngest son in a family who asks for his inheritance from his father, who divides it up equally among his sons. The youngest son goes off to a different country and spends all he has on “wild living.” We can all imagine what that means. Now he is broke and so he finds work in this far off country but is still starving for food. He realizes that his father treated his own servants better than that, so he decides to go back to his father, admit his wrongdoing, and ask to be a servant in his father’s house. Now here comes the best part! Scripture reads:
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
His father was eagerly waiting for his “lost” son to return. He did not think, “Oh great here comes the screw up! Now I have to bail him out and take care of him.” No, he was filled with compassion and ran to his son and hugged him! I believe that this is how God feels about all of us, His children. He knows and understands that we are not perfect, and that, whether intentionally or not, there are going to be times when we miss the mark; and when we do, you can bet that God is going to be eagerly awaiting for us to return to Him. He will be standing and actively looking for us on the horizon, and when He sees us He will be filled with joy and love for us, His beloved children.
I do not have children, but I do have 3 nephews that I would give the world to. There is not anything that these precious boys could do that would make me stop loving them. Now I can only imagine how much that feeling multiplies for your own children! And then imagine how it multiplies for God, who IS love (1 John 4:8), who IS perfect and who can love perfectly. There is not anything that He would not do for us or anything that we could do that would make Him stop loving us. How reassuring is that? Now I want to challenge you a little bit and bring a familiar scripture into a different light.
We often hear 1 Corinthians 13 read at weddings and we think about how we are supposed to love others, specifically in marriage, but I challenge you to think of it as how God loves us. There is so much we can learn about having a relationship with God from this section of scripture. If we replace the word “love” with the word “God” let’s see what we learn about a father’s love for his children. God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God is not rude, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, and He keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. God never fails. How great is it that we have a father that has all of these qualities? God is patiently waiting for us when we are led astray. He is kind to us. He is not envious of the relationships we have in our lives. He doesn’t brag or put us down or hurt us. He is always seeking our best interest. He never gives up on us. We can go to our Father unashamed and knowing that He has welcoming arms waiting to embrace us.
God wants us to seek Him out in our lives. Unfortunately in my own life I didn’t truly learn to do this until I lost my own father. Now whenever there is something that I would have asked my Dad, or called him to tell him, I tell God instead. And it isn’t in a way that I am replacing my own father, because that isn’t what God wants either. He wants His own loving and honest relationship with His child. In my case, God has used the relationship that I did have with my father to help me understand how to relate to Him as my Heavenly Father. Sometimes I tell Him little things that are going on in my life, and other times I pour out my heart to Him and ask for guidance and strength because I know His wisdom far outreaches mine.
So what does it look like to have a relationship with God? Well, that is going to be different for each person. Just as our relationships with people differ, each of us also has our own relationship with God, and our different personalities bring different aspects to the relationship. But every relationship is also based on trust. The more you trust someone, the closer you are to that person and the more you disclose to that person. The same principal applies to God. The more you know Him and trust Him, the more intimate your relationship will be. So dive into His word, surround yourself with people who know and love God, pray, speak to Him, and most of all be assured that He wants to have a relationship with you, His beloved child. As 1 John 3:1 so joyfully exclaims “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”