The cause of our broken relationships.
The Lord Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father in heaven.” Those simple, familiar words do not shock us as they did His first century hearers. By these words, the Lord Jesus was expressing an intimacy with the Creator that was both unfathomable and even possibly blasphemous in their minds. Our Lord’s actual word in the original Aramaic, “Abba,” would be the equivalent of our “Daddy.”
In recent years, it has not been unthinkable for some to suggest that they could improve on the Lord Jesus’ model prayer. Citing everything from the metaphoric character of God-talk to on the possibility of terrible memories of fatherly abuse, some have suggested that an alternative be offered instead. Hence, some have suggested the incongruous “Our Mother” or the wooden “Our Parent.” Those for whom anything new is always better have jumped the bandwagon. Not surprising is that the bandwagon left town with very few having climbed on board. Most Christians must think it important to pray as the Lord Jesus suggested.
Without spending a lot more time on polemic, it might be helpful to remind those that have no lack of hubris in trying to correct the Lord Jesus according to present day standards, that God the Father is the model for earthly fathers. So that if earthly fathers fall short of God’s glory, as all of us fathers must, the problem lies not with God the Father but with the sinners who have heeded everything from bad fatherly models to the devil’s empty promises.
The god of philosophers may be an unfeeling god, not unlike the blind billboard god of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. But that is not the God whom our Lord Jesus Christ teaches and beckons us to call, “Our Father in heaven.”
This is the God, who having sent His only begotten Son into the world in love, now wants to have an intimate relationship with His children. He wants us in all the seasons and situations of our life to be able to speak to Him with the confident assurance that He knows our needs even before we ask. Yet, our loving heavenly Father wants to hear from us. So that prayer to the One that already knows all our needs is, then, a gift.
It is inevitable in an intimate relationship between our heavenly Father and His children, that we children in our immaturity will not understand what the Father is up to as we experience the struggles and sadness and losses that go with daily life. It is inevitable in an intimate relationship between our heavenly Father and His children, that we children will disappoint our Father with our foolishness and self centeredness. It is inevitable that we will feel disappointed with our Father, because we feel that He is letting us down by answering our prayers more often with “NO” or “WAIT” instead of the much longed for “YES.”
How very sad our Father must feel when we reject the very help that He is trying to provide us in the midst of our inevitable losses and disappointments. He has not promised us a continuing city here on earth. He has not promised that bodies will not be vulnerable, grow sick, or die. So….is our Father’s sadness like the sadness that we earthly fathers feel when our grown children seem to have forgotten the sacrifices we lovingly made for them and the struggles we lovingly went through with and for them? Is it like the disappointment we feel when they seem to imply by their emotional distance: “well, what have you done for me lately?” Is it like our own wondering if maybe they childishly are still storing up resentments over our fatherly failures?
So, yes, how very sad our Father must feel when we take the gifts He gives us, not the least of which is our very life not even to mention the gift of His own Son for us, and then we respond with stopped ears to His pleas for us not to be foolish. So, yes, how very sad our Father must feel that we endlessly have to disobey as if to say, “I’m much too old to be told what to do.”
How very unoriginal our sin continues to be. Our Father has seen it all, which must be wearying beyond all imagining. Only a parent that has seen a child make the same mistakes over and over again like Sisyphus never getting the stone to the top of the hill can begin to get what God the Father must feel like after watching His dear children wander off into the very things that will only increase the level of pain in the world, and their own dissatisfaction, and the loss of meaning in their lives.
Our broken relationship with our heavenly Father is the cause all the brokenness in all of our other relationships. The dysfunction in our lives follows from the brokenness and foolishness and disobedience that characterizes how we relate with our heavenly Father.
It is not some kind of therapeutic exercise for each of us to admit that the minute God is not the center of our lives, right then we are making ourselves the center. Oh, we may say that something or someone else is the center of our lives, but that is the big lie. Whatever is most important in our lives is our god. It may seem quite commendable for us to say that others are the center of our lives, including spouses or children or whomever, but the truth about us is that the minute we put something other than God in the center, then it is all about us. Putting others in the center, no matter how selfless it may appear, is finally about what we get from them by saying they are the center of our lives. It is taking the gifts God the Father has given and turning them into substitutes for the Giver. Yes, far too many of us base our self esteem and the meaning of our lives on the lives of those we replace God with.
Too many dads are trying to live their lives through the accomplishments of their children. Too many moms are trying to live their lives through the accomplishments of their children, hence the craziness that can accompany proms not even to begin to talk about the royal weddings of daughters! It’s not socially acceptable in most places to talk about how much money one makes, and so people talk about where they have been and where they are going – which school their child attends and which organizations and honors they have accumulated.
And so it goes. But we are all dust, and to dust we shall return. Nobody gets out of here without dying. As the onetime governor of Alaska might put it: “So…how’s that brokenness and foolishness and disobedience working for you? Are you sorry yet?”
The confession of sin is like cleaning out a bad wound! If you don’t do it, the wound festers and never heals. Anger is like that. It will eat a person up. Refusing to forgive is like that. It will eat a person up. Refusing to ask forgiveness, refusing to confess our sins is like that. It will eat you up.
Our heavenly Father loves us dearly. He knows that every thing and every person we try to use as a God substitute will let us down, because no thing and no person can be God for us. We will get angry and bitter often at our heavenly Father and at those that leave us. We will refuse to forgive, or we will refuse to say we’re sorry.
Our dear heavenly Father wants to hear from us, because He knows we need it. He is not some tyrant that delights in our masochistic groveling. He is our heavenly Father who cares about every minute detail of every unique life! He says, “Talk to me. Tell me what’s wrong. Get it out of your head. Say it out loud.”
Again, that’s not some therapeutic exercise. It is the good and gracious will of our heavenly Father that none of us perish in our sins. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die on the cross for us – all of them – that being baptized into His death and resurrection and trusting Him as Lord and Savior, we may know for certain that we will live forever with Him. Perfectly healed! Whole at last!
Those that have left this earth already are beyond our physical contact, but we may still need to say to them: “Forgive me” or “I forgive you.” It’s time to let things go, and time to let them be at peace. Yes and those on earth that we have mistakenly treated as God substitutes need to hear us say: “I have expected too much of you” or “I have tried to make you something you cannot be.” To some we need to say: “I love you” and to others “You are a precious gift from God.”