Last week, I worked a soccer camp. My group was comprised of girls from 2nd to 7th grade who were there to improve their soccer skills or because their mother had made them come. The attitudes, like the very ages and subsequent sizes, were wide-ranging indeed.
And we had a good time, these girls and I. We ran and kicked and laughed–at least some of us ran and kicked and laughed: those non-pubescent among us.
I recall one girl–one of the smallest of our group–not because of her incessant silence but how she chose to break it. She was a little, blond thing, no more than eight or nine years old, and she was quiet. She didn’t seem particularly unhappy, just quiet and meek. Early on, it was apparent that she would not be talking to me.
And then she did.
It was my final day of camp and I got a tug on the back of my shirt. I turned to see this little girl, smiling wide-eyed up at me, and then she spoke the only words I will ever hear her say:
“My dad works at Dairy Queen.”
And then she scampered off happily. She just had to tell someone; she was that proud.
Fatherhood has been on a steady decline, but that has not made it matter any less. No, if anything, the contrary is true: fatherhood is a valued commodity. And it was this value, this treasure of a thing, which prompted this little girl’s words. She loved her dad. She was proud of him. And, I suspect, she loved ice cream too, but not enough to speak of it. No, her thoughts, her words, the only ones she chose to share, were centered on her father.
Now I’m not predictably going to say that there is a piece of that little girl in all of us because that is a cliche and also it is so very, very strange. But I will say this, the impact our earthly father made on us–or perhaps the one he failed to make–lies somewhere within all of us. It affects how we share, how we love, and even how we view the Father above.
And perhaps that is part of the trouble. Sure, it works well for those of us with ice-cream-making-dads whom we love and cherish because they loved and cherished us. We then connect God with a sense of paternal relationship and we get all excited about Heaven for more than just the cool treats that may be there. But for others of us, those whose fathers left us or hit us or neglected us or worse, well for us we hear Heavenly Father and run at the thought of it.
I read a story last night about a man who joined a cult. Let me pause here to say: Don’t join cults. This man’s cult was weird, as cults tend to be. They intricately broke down musical pieces of Bach and used them for disgraceful acts of “worship.” So it boiled down to Bach music and a bunch of stomach-churning sexual and violent activities. Like I said, weird stuff.
Anyway, Jesus found the man. He broke out of the cult, and decided he needed to join other believers and so he began attending a church. One Sunday, the organist began hammering out a Bach piece, and the man lost it. All the old memories came flooding back, and fearful, he fled–literally sprinted from the service. God is into this too! he thought, surmising that this Christianity thing was really no different than the cult had been–it just had taken longer to get into the sinister stuff.
The problem with the man was simple: his view of God didn’t originate with God, at least not in that moment. He saw God through the lens of experience–namely, through Bach and the cult Bach had been misused by. And this is precisely the thing that many without healthy, loving fathers do. Dad was a jerk, so God, as a father, must be sort of a jerk.
Fathers are important for us all. Some of us want to go up and tell strangers where our dad works, and others of us don’t even know our dad’s name. But whatever your view of dad is, it does not affect God. Sure, it may affect your view of God. But, if not taken from the bible, that is a mostly made up thing, isn’t it? No, I’m talking about who God really is. If my dad hits me, that violent wrong-doing does not make God a violent wrong-doer, just as every organist who plays a chord of Bach is not trying to set the mood to “crazy.”
Long and short, our experiences can affect our view of God, but they cannot change who God is. He is loving and good and all-knowing and sovereign. He is a father and He is the Father–one that we should want to go tug on a stranger’s shirt and talk about, even if it is all we ever get to say.
Access Cape Bible Chapel’s Father’s Day message–“Daddying for Dummies”–at http://www.capebiblechapel.org