Fathers, do not exasperate your children;
instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4 NIV
What a simple verse, but oh, how it irked me yesterday. My friend, a single mother, sat beside me. While I know the brokenness of our relationships is due to sin, what now? What about the fatherless? What about those who have experienced failure as parents? What about those who no longer have children in the home? What does this verse mean for those not parenting?
(Note: As I was researching this blog, my NIV translation actually says fathers could be translated parents. That was not brought up in the message yesterday and I did not utilize that understanding as I processed this verse. Although I often bristle at the patriarchal tone of Christianity and the Bible, for this post it is inconsequential.)
Sometimes the sermon just has little to do with you. On those Sunday mornings, it is just a time to have fun singing with a rockin' band, catch up with friends, and plan where to have lunch while praying the speaker wraps up early. This could have been one of those for me. Except for this blog. I use this Armchair QB series as a place to push myself, or really to push the message, to find out if it applies to me. Sometime during the message, between my snarling and jotting down questions to help construct the future post, I found it. It was a memory.
My road to Christianity was twisty dirt paths with lots of steep turns and hills that would take the road out of view while I climbed. One day, I was trying to figure out how this Christian thing would work for me. It was during a particularly challenging moment in my life when I was healing some old wounds. As I prayed, because you don't really need to believe to pray, God clearly offered to be my Father. Think what you will. Doesn't matter if you believe or not because it doesn't change the reality of the experience.
I didn't have this Christian household when I was growing up. I didn't have this father who would train me in the ways of God. It just wasn't the way that my family was. But what I had was a relationship with a God who wanted to be my Father.
Of course, that could seem bizarre. How could God train me up in the ways of the Lord, right? You didn't really ask that questions, did you? I hope not.
As I said, this has been a long journey. God has been training me, was instructing me, before I was aware of him. When I came to an understand of God within the context of the story of Christianity, it was like seeing your parent from that new perspective when you transition from teenager to an adult.
The richness of his Word startled me.
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (or, for me, on the God of my own understanding)." Proverbs 3:5
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him." Psalm 91:14-15
"Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear." Isaiah 65:24
"Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD...“Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them." Jeremiah 1:8,17
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9
"He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." Revelations 22:20
These are just some of the treasures that are closest to my heart's surface. God has been good, so good, to me. While I may not have had the father that trains children to love God, God did not abandon me (He is a father to the fatherless. Psalm 68:5).
But what about the instruction? The warning? Well, there is always this: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23
Or there are the words of Jesus himself, my personal preference: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5
I don't know if there is much that I want to do, other than learn to love and trust God even more. I am not counting the 5K or shooting my first pheasant or finishing my degree or even teaching my grand-daughter about Jesus. Those are all terrific things, but in one way or another, they are impermanent. This God who has stolen my heart is constant. While apart from him I can do nothing, with him, anything is possible.
With my Father, that is.