By Florian H. Berndt
The deepest search in life, it seemed to me, the thing that in one way of another was central to all living was man’s search to find a father, not merely the father of his flesh, not merely the lost father of his youth, but the image of a strength and wisdom external to his need and superior to this hunger; to which the belief and power of his own life could be united.
This is and has been the Father’s work from the beginning – to bring us into the home of His heart. This is our destiny.
- George MacDonald
There is a Father Who is waiting for you; Who will not condemn you; Who will not criticize you; Who will not point out all of your faults and failings. He is just waiting. I believe if we could get that message across to the fatherless generations around us, many of them would run into their Father's arms. That is what they are longing for.
- Derek Prince
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
- Paul of Tarsus
There is something in the human soul that longs for the security, strength and wisdom that a healthy parent provides for a child. Not just a longing for home as a place, but the kind of relationship in which we know we belong and matter.
And I don’t merely mean the religious world, since there have been plenty of books, movies and songs over the last few decades that speak about this longing and the pain associated with it from various angles.
It was the fulfilment of that longing that signified not only the inner life Jesus of Nazareth, but is also what He shares with those who can admit their need for this kind of loving relationship (Matthew 11:25- 30; Mark 14:36; Romans 8:14-16; Galatians 4:1-7).
When Jesus uttered the words, Abba, Father, He introduced us to the fundamental nature and character of God as a loving Parent (John 17:6 & 26). And it was this revelation that gradually transformed hardened men like Paul of Tarsus into lovers of humanity (2. Corinthians 1:3-4; 1. Timothy 1:13).
Now I understand, words like Father or Mother are not neutral terms, depending on what one emotionally associates with these words, due to past experiences and conditioning – just as one can expect an emotional reaction from people when shouting the word shark while standing on the beach.
Add to this the contribution of patriarchal systems over the centuries, and it is no wonder that wounded hearts prefer to remain closed to any mentioning of fatherhood, even if it means an orphan existence. Yet, when Jesus, or Paul, addressed God as Abba, they were not using the term to describe the divine nature as patriarchal but as parental – including the feminine quality of mothering.
While I know from abundant personal experience the need for healing the wounds inflicted by misguided or even toxic parenting, or even just authoritarian leadership models, I can’t help but noticing how there also seems to be the attempt to discredit and mock parenting, and especially fatherhood in popular culture.
There appears to me a sinister intent to continuously drive societies towards an increasingly deeper orphan mentality with its competing behavior patterns, to keep us trapped in an endless cycle of fear, and the false antidote of medicating on religious and secular consumerism alike.
Yes, I’ve observed this in religious circles, in which God is presented as a cold, stoic judge or angry monarch, in circles of alternative spiritualities, that remain stuck in a perpetual ego-building phase, and also in materialist philosophies that attempt to create their own kind of meaning in a seemingly arbitrary universe.
In contrast to such tragic narratives, fed by various anxieties, and often countered by angry striving or toxic positivity, the Gospel presents our existence as a comedy, in which evil and real struggle exists, but in which everything is being guided towards the culmination of a glorious family reunion.
Thus, when Paul writes about “the Father (Gr. pater) of all Fatherhood, from Whom every family (Gr. patri) in Heaven and in earth derives its name” (Ephesians 3:14), and John states that “God is Love” (1. John 4:16), they are basically stating that creation is an expression of parental love, that all wrongs will be taken care of in their time, and that all tears will be wiped away in the embrace of the Ultimate Parent (Revelation 21:4).
And while this vision has been almost completely lost in today’s world, it was sages like George MacDonald that found their hearts warming up again to this revelation, as his spiritual son by writing, C. S. Lewis observed, “…an almost perfect relationship with his father was the earthly root of all his wisdom. From his own father, he said, he first learned that Fatherhood must be the core of the universe.”
Call me naive, but based on my own experiences, this is the vision that has transformed my own hardened heart and outlook on the world more than anything else, and introduced me to a sense of identity, security, purpose, and belonging I could have never dreamt of, and taught me to live in trust like nothing else.
Some might see this as weak or needy, but the truth is, the spiritually most powerful people I know, exemplify exactly this childlike trust in their everyday life, as they’ve learned that they don’t need to prove themselves as great spiritual giants, but can simply trust in Someone greater than themselves – which was even Jesus’ own attitude (John 10:29, 14:28).
No wonder, He broke out in praise, when He saw His disciples beginning to respond to what He shared with them:
“At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise You, Abba, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Abba, for this is what You were pleased to do.
‘All things have been committed to Me by My Abba. No one knows Abba's Son except Abba, and no one knows Abba except His Son and those to whom His Son chooses to reveal Him.
‘Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I AM gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light’” (Matthew 11.25-30).
Might we find this vision again…