There is an order to the spiritual life which when followed leads through the threshold of right relationship with God and produces unparalleled fulfillment in the human heart. This order begins with honoring and worshiping Him.
Our Father in Heaven…
Life is filled with “first time events.” One of mine took place on a sunny, spring day along an old uneven concrete sidewalk on 46th Street of Louisville, Kentucky’s west side. It was my tenth birthday and my parents had given me a new 24-inch Schwinn Flyer bicycle, and the event was its maiden voyage. My dad firmly held the new red wonder while I climbed aboard the seat. He gave me some last minute instructions and then began to push the bike forward while he ran alongside to help me gain speed for better balance. He let go and I began the gradual descent along the sidewalk which ran a half block distance before reaching a cross street.
I picked up speed and wondered if any of my neighborhood buddies might be watching. The wind in my face increased with each push of the pedals and so did my confidence. At that point I made the bad decision to look down for a few seconds to watch the spin of shiny silver spokes and listen to the sound of the tires whine against the concrete walk. When I raised my head and looked forward again, directly in front of me was a small mound of dirt about two feet wide separating the sidewalk from the cross street. I had seen it many times before, but never from this perspective or speed.
Had I looked up a little sooner I might have averted what was about to occur. I hit the mound, flew off the bike and fell to the ground, while my new bike continued a few feet further on its own before coming to rest in the middle of the street with the front tire still spinning. No real damage was done to me or the bike, but it was definitely not the ideal dismounting technique.
The first thing I did after getting up from the ground was retrieve the bike from the pavement. I then looked up to see my Dad standing and motioning for me to return to his position. Had there been a worse spill he would have come to my rescue, but this time he waited for my return. When I did he asked if I was okay then offered a few additional riding tips like, “Always keep your eyes looking forward and it’s best to not stare down at the spokes too long while riding.” or something to that effect.
Most of us have childhood memories of our fathers and they vary from good to not so good. There are also those who do not have memories of their father because they have never known them, but without exception, each of us has been affected in some way or another by our fathers.
Except for my rebellious teen years, I have always loved and admired my dad. However my respect and appreciation for him increased substantially after committing my life to Jesus because it was then I began to see my dad from a different perspective, a less selfish one.
During my defiant years, he represented the primary person attempting to prevent me from living the kind of life I thought would fulfill me. After I became a follower of Christ I began to think differently and develop new goals and purposes. With a changed heart and new values I saw my dad through a different lens. He was no longer the militant voice of reason and challenge regarding my choices and motives; instead he became a valuable friend, trusted ally, and source of wisdom and affirmation. I finally realized that during the years when our relationship was so strained, my dad was motivated by love and concern, and was simply trying to prevent me from harm or ruining my life permanently.
A few months after my wife and I became Christians, I pursued Biblical studies at a college in Missouri. We were excited to embark on this new adventure and gave little thought of leaving our home in Louisville, nor did we think the move would signal the last time Louisville would be our permanent residence. Over four decades later it has become the destination for brief family visits during a holiday or vacation, but no longer our home.
Over those decades, one tradition that developed occurred during departures from my parent’s home. The sequence went as follows. When we pulled away from their driveway my mom would wave and smile from the front door or window and dad would walk to the end of the drive to watch as we turned onto the main highway and wave one final time as I tapped the horn in response concluding the departure ritual. Weather and health permitting, I knew that ritual would continue until he was physically unable to do so. Sadly it did end with the passing of my Dad. I would give about anything for that tradition to take place one more time.
I’ve shared about my relationship with my biological father, because there is a certain indescribable peace and security enjoyed when right relationship exists between a father and son. Unfortunately these types of relationships have diminished substantially from our cultural landscape because of the rapid erosion of the nuclear family.
A primary aim of satan the past several decades has been to systematically reduce and destroy the appropriate role God intended for fatherhood. Why? If that role becomes confused and weakened it increases the damage to humanity on several fronts. Without the presence of earthly fathers functioning in their proper God designed roles, the enemy causes distortions in how we view and relate to our Father in heaven. Earthly fathers were created to provide a reflection of God’s fatherly characteristics toward his children. Fathers are to be a mirror image of God’s love, provision, security, faithfulness and presence. Distort and devalue the earthly role of fatherhood, and it can harm how we view the heavenly Father.
When earthly fathers are self-centered, unfaithful, uncaring, and absent, it can introduce suspicion, doubt, and insecurity in children. Those negative characteristics then spill over into the perception of God the Father and can cause a seed of suspicion about His faithfulness and genuine concern for us. Satan’s motive in undermining proper earthly fatherhood has been to cause humanity to deny trust in God as our heavenly Father, and a heart without trust in God is a heart with a vacuum of hope. And, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”[i]
Our heavenly Father loves and deeply cares about the lives of people. He is perfect in every way, and thus a perfect Father. He never wanted humanity to suffer the darkness of the evil one. God’s plan has always been for humanity’s good and for our lives to be filled with the life of his Kingdom. Satan’s design for humanity, on the other hand, has always been to harm.
Fortunately for us God the Father provided the epic plan of escape from the enemy’s intentions and from his heart of love through the redemptive work of Christ, God extended mercy gave grace leading to freedom, reconciliation, ongoing personal relationship, protection, and eternal fatherhood!
[i] Proverbs 13:20 NIV