How our Relationships Help us Understand God: Part Three (Father)
I was ten years old the year I broke my arm.
It wasn’t a very exciting accident. I fell about 2 feet and tried to catch myself with my right arm. This proved to be not the best idea.
I spent the beginning of summer with my arm in a blue cast.
At that point in our lives my dad owned a rain gutter business. Not just any rain gutters. They were seamless rain gutters—which meant they were formed in a machine in one large piece right at the building they were to be installed on, rather than bought in 8-10 foot pieces and “seamed” together.
One day, while my arm was still in a cast, I was at work with my dad and he informed me that he required my help installing a gutter. It was for a house that was quite long and he needed all of us to hold sections to keep it from buckling. This meant he needed me to climb a ladder, holding the gutter, and help stabilize it in place until it could be screwed onto the house.
This wasn’t the first time I had done this job. One of the reasons my dad was self-employed was because he wanted his children to be able to work alongside him. He was a firm believer in a family working all together—so we did.
But that day, when I stood at the bottom of the ladder with my broken arm, a rain gutter, and two stories worth of climbing to do—I was absolutely certain I would not survive.
I pointed out to my dad that this was impossible because I had to hold the gutter with my good hand, which left me with nothing to hold onto the ladder.
My dad carefully explained how to lean into the ladder with my body and wrap my arm around the outside. It wasn’t a hand-grip, but he promised that as long as I leaned forward, I would be fine. “We can’t get this gutter installed without you,” he said. “I need you to climb.”
We started up the ladder and I was in tears by the third rung. I was convinced this climb would be the end of me. If a 2 foot fall had broken my arm, there was no doubt I was going to break my neck. I distinctly remember the sound of my sobs echoing off the house as we climbed.
And where was my dad?
I’ll tell you where he was—he was climbing the next ladder down from me, talking to me the whole time. Tasha, I’m right here. You’re going to be okay. Just take the next step. Lean forward. I’m here.
Despite the fact that I’m sure it was a bit frustrating that I was crying so hard and making the job more complicated, my dad didn’t show the least amount of annoyance. He just spoke calmly and reassuringly the whole way up the two stories and then, when we reached the top, I remember watching him hurriedly attach his part of the gutter before crawling onto the roof and running across to me. He quickly grabbed the gutter so I could climb back down.
You did it, honey. Good job. I’ve got the rest. You go ahead down. Thank you for helping. You did it! I’m so proud of you.
When I think about God being described as a Father in Scripture—this story is what I remember. I think about my dad’s compassion for me, his gentleness with my fear, and his encouragement and thankfulness when I worked through something hard.
Even though my dad wasn’t always perfect—there were plenty of times when he was annoyed and short with me—that day he demonstrated a father’s love in a rather perfect way.
God is like a father who has endless compassion for His children.
There are times when He asks us to do hard things and then He walks beside us—speaking encouragement and hope and life and running to help when we need it.
When Scripture tells us that God is like a father, it’s telling us that we have this personal cheerleader/coach who is walking beside us. For sure He asks us to do things that seem impossible to our minds…live in the fruit of the Spirit? Be patient and kind? Love our neighbors ALL THE TIME? Bless those who curse us????
God asks us to do hard things but He also teaches us. He leads and guides us. He says, “This is the way, walk in it.” And then He encourages us.
And maybe this is the part many of us miss?
We know God asks us to do hard things but then we assume He’s standing over us with His arms crossed saying, “Alright, let’s go now. Get it together.”
But He’s not.
Oh, friends. That’s not the picture we’re given in the Word. Instead, He’s encouraging, He’s calling to us, He’s walking beside us—He’s RUNNING toward us when we look His way.
The hallmark of a father-heart is compassion.
Even though a lot of fathers don’t live in it—the mark of a father is still to have compassion for his children. When a father doesn’t display compassion for his children, everyone knows something is wrong. Something is off. When a child is in danger, the father should be the one racing to help. When a child is struggling, the father should be the one who is right there to give them a hand. When a child is hurt, the father is the one who should be moving everything in the way to get help and healing for his little one.
And while our earthly fathers are marred by sin and selfishness and they fail over and over—our God is not. His compassionate father-heart is big enough for each one of us and the moment we look, we’ll find Him doing all the things He promised.
If you are struggling to know the compassionate father-heart of God:
I encourage you to read Proverbs 3. This chapter is a letter from a father to a son and it shows us a brilliant picture of how God longs to gently guide and help us.
The most well-known verses in this chapter are 5-6 where it says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.
We’re reminded here to “know” God—which is actually the Hebrew word yada and is all about an intimate knowledge and acknowledging of who God truly is—and through this knowing of God, we will learn to follow Him more clearly.
Do you long to know more of the father-heart of God?
Let me pray with you:
We want to know this part of you, Lord. We want to know this compassion, this gentleness, this father-who-runs. We’re so tired of having a view of you that isn’t an actual reflection of your heart.
Teach us to understand what it means to have a father who is full of compassion. A father who coaches and cheers and builds us up—leading us through hard things and through sorrow and stays right by our side.
Heal up the places where other fathers have wounded us and come fill those spaces with Your goodness. Run to us, Father—and take up the burden of all the things that are threatening us, so we can rest in hope and joy and abundant life.