I’ll never forget the day I became a dad. My wife and I had registered to adopt a child with our state’s Division of Youth and Family Services. Then one day we got a call from them saying there was someone special they’d like us to meet. A few days later little Christopher crawled into our life. When I held him for the first time, I knew he was going to be my son.
From that wonderful day of “instant fatherhood” – as any first-time dad will tell you – everything changes ... absolutely everything. More than just learning how to change diapers, bathe, feed, stop the crying, and put the baby to sleep, new dads also learn a lot about themselves. We may discover untapped reserves of maturity in a new, more selfless lifestyle. But these new concerns such as financial frugality, dependability, setting a good example, sleepless nights, sensitivity, patience, and fears of the future, are all eclipsed by the deep inner joy new fathers feel. For me it felt like leaving the shallow waters of boyhood and learning to stay afloat in the depths of fatherhood.
I guess I’m still growing up along with my son. Often it’s me who needs some good strong fathering. But I need something more than just remembering the worthy example of my own dad or the best fatherly advice from friends and relatives. I need a father who is instantly available, truly reliable, always right, and will never disappoint.
So I turn to Christ Jesus’ example when he so often referred to and appealed to God as his Father, and the Father of us all – as in the opening line of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” And he preceded that prayer with these words: “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”
Truly, God is our Father, our ever-present Parent who will meet our every need because we are “precious in [His] sight” (Isaiah 43:4). This is not just some spiritual ideal or religious metaphor, but a practical, palpable relationship that we can draw upon as a basis for our own parenting. As we trust in God’s care for our children’s needs as well as our own, we gain good parenting skills and qualities such as strength, insight, creativity, discipline, patience, and wisdom.
God’s love and care for us is strong and lasting, like our love for our children. It’s a permanent bond of love within each of us. Learning of God’s tender fathering and mothering qualities brings them into our family relationships. It replaces fear with a tender trust that we can always turn to our Father to learn how to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6).
Building that relationship with God can take some effort. Like connecting with a human parent, we may need to make the first move, and to humble our will, and quiet our preconceptions in order to be open and listening for God’s wisdom. But I’ve found that every effort at drawing closer to God reveals that He is always with us to encourage, calm, and strengthen us at a moment’s notice. As we learn to turn to God for whatever we need, we gain the best parental support system there is.