What kind of a Father is God?

One week ago today, my wife and I bid a tearful farewell to my son and his wife, who were moving out of state for our daughter-in-law to take a well-deserved position teaching at the University of Washington.  They had sold their condo a month earlier, put their things in temporary storage, and moved in with us.  We had ample time therefore, especially in the final few days, to cook and eat together, to play games and laugh.

And then it was time for them to pack up their car with what remained of their belongings.  We prayed for them, gave long, long hugs, then lingered on the front step watching and waving until they had driven completely out of sight.

We went back inside, closed the door quietly behind us, and wept.  It was an eerie, strange day of grey skies and rumbling thunder.  Now and again, waves of loss and sadness would overtake me, and I would begin to weep again.

I had already anticipated, long in advance, that this would be a hard day.  Part of me wanted to say, Get a grip.  It’s not like anybody died — they just moved to Seattle.  But it’s one thing to know that in your head, and another to feel the hole in your heart.

So that evening, we did the only thing that it made sense to do: we went out for frozen yogurt.  With toppings.

And talked.  Both things helped.

Don’t get the wrong impression.  Because I love my children, I want to see them turn the page and enter the next chapter of their lives.  I have tried (albeit rather imperfectly) to empower them to do just that.  But our stories are tied together.  Their transition is our transition, and it hurts to see them leave.

Yet even in the midst of the emotional tumult, I thought I heard the whisper of God’s Spirit: can you imagine that your heavenly Father loves you that way?

Some of us have been taught to think of God in abstract philosophical categories: omni-this, omni-that.  Whatever the significance of such doctrines, we are also blessed with a Bible that declares God to be love, that shows us a Son who loves his Father and would do anything for him.

And that same Jesus tells a remarkable story to his disciples, of a father with two sons (Luke 15:11-32).  We call it the parable of the “Prodigal Son,” but in some ways, the more remarkable character is the father, whose love for his son knew no boundaries.  Whereas a man of his culture and stature should have declared such an irresponsible son dead to him, he rejoiced to find him alive.  Recognizing the lad’s weary form from a distance, the father violated the norms of propriety and ran to embrace him.

I am not God, and my son is no prodigal.  Far from it, on both counts.  But Jesus’ story provokes my imagination by daring to suggest that God might be such a father.  In my mind’s eye, I picture the man who raced across the fields to enfold his son lovingly into his arms; I picture the same man, from time to time, sitting by the window, staring off into the distance, wondering when and if that familiar form might suddenly appear on the horizon.

I understand that.

Could God be that kind of Father?  The very thought astounds me, and I am grateful.

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