I know that sometimes “Christian movies” can be kind of hit-and-miss in terms of quality, but I saw one last week that I found gripping. Show Me the Father, produced and directed by the Kendrick brothers, is a documentary that tells of God’s love for His children through the stories of several men and their often-complex relationships with their fathers. I barely made it through the opening credits without crying. There are few things in life more empowering than a father’s love freely given, and few more devastating than when that love is withheld, misused, or abused.
In a particularly poignant observation, Stephen Kendrick notes that God created fathers to channel His love: to be a type, an image, a representative of His love for His children to the next generation. The fatherheart of God has many aspects, as does being an earthly father.
God is our protector: My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. (2 Sam. 22:3, 4) When a family is sleeping in the middle of the night and a disturbing noise awakes us, has any man ever said to his wife, “Hey, honey, why don’t you go check that out?” As fathers, as husbands, we move. We know it’s our role to protect. Protection is ingrained in us, especially in moments like these. Protection extends beyond bodily danger, to guarding our children’s hearts from the culture around them, exposing them to things of the world when it is time to do so, and then through the lens of God’s Word so they’ll have a framework of truth to view all of life.
God is our provider: And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19). As God’s children, we are never truly in want. He provides our needs, as well as our physical, mental, social, and educational capacities to attain those needs. There’s no such thing as a “self-made man.” We’re all God-made men, by His provision. As dads, we work to provide for our children; certainly basic needs like food and shelter, but also comfort, care, and security. We help ensure their growth and flourishing as confident young men and women, secure in who they are and confident in our love for them and our approval.
God is our teacher: Many nations will come and say, ‘Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths. (Micah 4:2). As fathers, it’s our job to speak God’s Word and His truth into the lives of our children. This doesn’t only mean Bible studies or devotionals, but includes molding and shaping them through prayerful, thoughtful, and loving discipline. It also means helping them understand how God speaks into their lives, the issues and challenges they are facing, and how to apply godly truth and wisdom in those trials. In this way, we mirror for our children yet another role God the Father fills in our lives, that of counselor. (Ps. 73:24)
Finally, a role I’m realizing more as a father of adult children, God is our friend: You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:14). As fathers, we are friends to our children when we walk alongside them, encourage them, and are available for them when they need to talk or want to share a hurt or victory. As a friend, we never leave any doubt in their minds that we are for them.
In the Old Testament, specifically, fathers were a great source of blessing. Just as God spoke blessing into Israel and covenanted with her, so we mirror God by being fountains of blessing for our children. In Genesis 49, Jacob imparts tremendous blessings upon his sons at the end of his life. We bless our children when we speak words of life into their hearts, helping them to see their lives in the light of our Heavenly Father’s perspective. We bless them by walking in the reality of life in Christ ourselves, and calling them to that life, one that brings joy and grace. We bless our children by calling out their strengths, and gently but lovingly warning them of the dangers of their weaknesses. And, we bless our children by speaking into them our vision for their spiritual flourishing and well-being. And, since we cannot give what we do not have, we must be men of the Spirit, men of the Word ourselves, in order to mirror God by speaking these blessings.
All of these aspects of the Father may or may not sound foreign to you. You may have come from a father like the one I’ve described, one who left you rich blessings, a godly heritage. If so, you are doubly blessed.
Many others, however, have a different story. Your fatherly legacy may be one of rejection, or abandonment, or abuse. For you, the blessings of a father may have been a desperate wish, or a shattered dream. Your story may be one of seeking that acceptance, of working and striving to achieve, to become something, so that someone who may not even be alive anymore, a ghost, will tell you that you’re good enough, or that you matter, or that he is proud of you. You may struggle with anger because you were rejected, and now react to the world around you in ways you don’t fully understand, yet desperately wish you could change. You might have felt completely out of control as a child, subjected to a father’s whim or lack of attention, and the rest of your life has been one big, misguided and mostly futile attempt to exert control over your world and the circumstances around you. Maybe deep down, you’ve questioned whether you’re even worthy of love.
Maybe, instead of your earthly father acting as mirror of God’s love, the opposite has happened. Your vision and view of God has Father has now been distorted by your own relationship with a broken father, who may have even been really trying, but was shaped by the brokenness of his own life. You may view God as a father who doesn’t really approve of you, who always expects more, who you can never quite please, who may not really love you, who you can’t trust with your life, who wants to control you.
If you’re one of these guys, I can empathize. At various points of my life, I’ve felt most of these things. If this is you, let me encourage you with the two greatest words in Scripture: “But, God,” as in, “but God can change all that”
The truth is, you have a Father who loves you, a Father who doesn’t need you to achieve or do anything besides running to Him and falling on the grace of Jesus to be loved and accepted to the greatest extent possible; who not only approves of you, but is absolutely crazy about you, not because you’re so wonderful but because you are His son; who sees all and knows all and has no desire to control you like a puppet (He’s given us free will, after all, even though most of us don’t do so well with it), but to lead and guide you to joy and blessing that you have ever known.
And, you have a Father who wants to empower you to be all of these things– protector, provider, teacher, counselor, friend, and so much more–to your children. Even if you don’t know how, He knows, and He wants to bless you and to bless your children through you.
As I said a couple of weeks ago, In Exodus 34, God describes Himself to Moses as The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.
Some of us have lived the part about the iniquity of the fathers being visited on the children, haven’t we? We’ve seen the brokenness and fallenness of our fathers played out in our own lives, maybe for generations?
But, God. In this generation, for my family, God decided that He was going to make it different. He would break that cycle. He would be glorified by showing His steadfast love and faithfulness, and that in this generation He would begin a new era, thousands of generations of blessing, of children and children’s children dedicated to Him.
There’s a song by Kari Jobe called “The Blessing” that I also can’t listen to without crying, as I think of God’s promises to those who love Him and cry out to Him-this can be your blessing from your Father:
May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children
May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you
In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you
Guys, no matter what your past, who your father was, or who you have been, He is for you. His blessing awaits you and your children for generations; He longs to speak it over you. His blessing waits for the man who cries out to Jesus, and who sets His course as a man after God’s heart. God provides hope and healing for that man. And, for his children. Let it continue, or let it begin with you.