Monday, July 21, 2008

Looking for Father

Empty Field

Sweet Ann asked me to tell her about my experience of God. And I found myself saying this...

Personally, I have struggled with addressing God as Father. I think anyone who reads Stone Crossings will completely understand this struggle. For me, God as Lover is actually safer and more inviting. The tenderness, gentility, and deep longing implicit in that image speaks to my heart and wounded soul.

After Ann posted her piece, complete with my answer, I found that my soul took pause. I need to get past this, I thought. I need to experience God as Father.

In a way, I realize this has already begun to happen. During my year of outdoor solitude, there were many days when I felt it was Father who was present. The kind of father-God we see in Moses' blessing to Benjamin...

The beloved of the LORD rests in safety— the High God surrounds him all day long— the beloved rests between his shoulders. Deut. 33:12

Yes, under my pine tree, feeling lost and alone and plagued by failings, there were many days when I felt the immediacy of that blessing... felt like I was a beloved child getting a piggy back ride on a daddy's shoulders. Of course there were days when God came more as Lover. Or, believe it or not, even sort of as Grandmother. This reminds me: I have not read The Shack, but I hear that God the Father appears (disturbingly so to some readers) in the form of Black Mama and, later, Hippie Guy.

All this has left me musing. What does father really mean? In life? In the bible? For how we experience God?

I guess you could say I'm looking for Father.

Empty Field photo by Sara. Used with permission.


Sam's More Randomonium
LL's Father, at Love Notes to Yahweh


Ted's book club post 12 Clefts of the Rock: Responsibility

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OpenID samwrites2 said...

It's unfortunate but common that humans identify their heavenly father as encompassing the qualities of their earthly one.
I had to get past that and only did so recently. Then again even more recently - so easy to fall back into that trap of thinking "God's Away on Business" when he's really there with you.
Again, I found my inspiration in nature in realizing the great creator was also the greatest of fathers.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, I read three-quarters through "The Shack". I need to finish it. Some really good things and what you mention doesn't bother me, though I guess I didn't get to the hippie part. But some things I'm not so sure about. Yet I think it could help and will help some, and would have helped me at the right time, an earlier time. And maybe would help me now, if I were more open, honestly.

But it would be too complicated for me to describe why this look at God as Father is so complex to me. And doesn't connect as well as it surely should. I do take it so by faith, and when I think of God as Father, I think of a whole bunch of sibblings in our older Brother, Jesus.

I do think, though, that God wants to do a work in me, to open me up more to his fatherhood. And I think your upcoming book can be helpful to me in that way, from your post here.

6:19 PM  
Blogger NaNcY said...

i think that as long as you are abiding in Christ Jesus, that the Holy Spirit will be working in you, you will come to the Father when the time is right, and He will be waiting for you with his eternal gifts of acceptance, joy and Love.

i suppose that most humans have a twisted view of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. we do not understand. but, then again, we do not have to. we can have a intimate relationship with God even without understanding, and in this i think that God slowly and lovingly reveals Himself.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Nikki said...

I think the fact that God reveals himself to us as Trinity speaks to the fact that our God is not the sort of God one can neatly pigeonhole into a single role or personality like so many pagan deities that seems to obsess over one particular aspect of nature or have one overriding character trait (god of war, god of fertility, god of water) in the popular imagination. Surely that God, who is at once all of the things He is revealed to be in scripture and in our lives, in our experience of Him, though limited by our limitations, is anything but static, except in that He is and always will be possessed of all of His complex attributes. I think that is quite a lovely truth. He is unchanging, but our experience of Him will change and grow as long as we continue to grow ourselves.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

I love my dad and have a warm, friendly and respectful relationship with him. When I think of God the Father, I do not superimpose my dad's traits. Not consciously, anyway. Traumatic experiences may be stronger triggers for association. I think of God as perfect father, and it makes my own job as father a bit intimidating. What a daunting task, to protect and provide for my own, preparing them for their future. (shiver)

11:34 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I'm with can be really hard to know God as Father. For me it's past experience as well as a church culture that tries to make him...otherworldly, almost. Nothing creates distance quite like that. It's hard for me to believe that a father who is in another world loves me in this one, but I'm getting closer ;)

About The Shack...well, the portrayal of God was a little jarring at first, but it sure made sense in the context...and seemed pretty small in light of some of the other things the book said. My 2 cents for you...

11:53 AM  
Blogger Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

LL, I thought you might be interested in a couple Scripture verses that meant a lot to me in times when I was struggling, first when I was a young adult, then later when each of my parents died. These passages gave me a new perspective, and a new relationship with God.

Psalm 68:5.
A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows
Is God in His holy habitation."

Then also Psalm 27:10.
"For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the Lord will take me up."


1:14 PM  
Blogger Laure said...

i had to sit with this post awhile, l.l. the place you've invited us to stand in with you is holy ground. in some respects i'd prefer to offer you the deep listening of my heart rather than attempt to insinuate my personal experience or understanding into your process. your questions have/are/will certainly take you on an important pilgrimage.

your words ...

"Tell me, teach me, show me, deep down in the wounded places. What is father, God? With Your sweet hand, brush past my lips, my heart. Open what has long been shut.

The sound of my voice, the thrum of trust that calls You Father, Father, Father."

... invite worship and prayer. i think i shall take these up when i think of you.


2:37 PM  
Blogger Charity Singleton said...

Oh, LL. As always you have struck a chord, and a nerve, and a cymbal. I went through a period where I called my dad, "Father," and then felt it was confusing my relationship with God, somehow. I went to the opposite extreme and now call him "Pop." (Kind of like a 70s sit-com, it seems.) I have a very close relationship with my dad, and he is wise and loving and kind. But somehow, naming him differently, let God be the kind of Father that no earthly man could be.

8:48 PM  
Blogger NaNcY said...

i think that being in Love with Jesus again has been a long time coming.

but, i think that recently what has happened is a few things...this post had a bit to do with it, the book grace walk had a bit to do with it, and God talking to me in the garden, and of course the Holy Spirit in all these things and more.

and i think i was finally brought to a place in faith, and maybe in age as well, where i can appreciate the gift more than i did before.

for it once was Love in my youth of age and belief, and at that time, i did not realize what a gift it was.

i am beginning to realize that i can grow in appreciation of that same Love, now that i have wrinkles and scars.

it feels like
i was parched in a desert
and now i drink living water

it seems a matter of
my heart
and just wanting that feeling back
of Loving and being loved
and realizing that
can be my life
if i choose
to give my heart

before i gave my heart
and not my mind

later i gave my mind
and not my heart
though i thought i was giving my was what i had before that was giving my heart, and i had not realized it. i just realized that i needed to be in love again to make a whole picture.
that it was just another small step for my heart to go back there.

like remembering how to ride a bike after not riding for thirty years. only more appreciated if i also felt thirty years younger while riding. because that is what God's love has done to my heart after going back to that place with my heart. there is a buzz of life there again.

now i want to give my mind, and heart (and He has my soul) into being in the Love that God has for me in Jesus. and now i think that is what leads to all the other things that He has for me and wants from me. it leads to the whole package, the kit and kaboodle, the whole shebang.

1:47 AM  
Blogger NaNcY said...

actually, after thinking about it...reading of your struggle with the Father part of God, i think that must have helped in me finally making some kind of sense to my mind and heart about my struggle of the Jesus part of God that i have been having for a few years. i have been shoving it aside for so long that it got to be kind of normal. but, there was nothing that i knew to do for it. i guess that some things do not happen until our hearts and minds are made ready to surrender and go there.

God's Love is amazing.

2:19 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Sam... I like the idea of linking creator to father. Going to muse on that one for a while.

Ted... so, tell me, what might a father do with a bunch of siblings and Brother Jesus? Sounds like something to daydream about.

Nancy... twisted view... tell me more, if you can articulate.

Nikki... interesting comparison to pagan deities. I wonder if those deities are all supposed to be manifestations of some kind of central God-energy? And, if so, what makes Trinity different?

Craver... good, good, you are beginning to speak to my question. So father is partly protector, provider, and preparer. In what ways do you see this as different from mother?

Sarah... pretty small in light of other things? Wow. Someday I'll have to read the book. Did you like it?

Becky... oh, that Psalm 27 verse is one of my absolute favorites. Thank you for the reminder.

Laure... deep listening of the heart is always welcome here. :) Thanks for sitting alongside me.

Charity... love that opening image of striking cymbals and so forth. I guess for me it goes beyond what I call God or my own dad; it's the attributes I'm trying to consider and cling to (or not). Thanks for sharing from your own journey too. "Pop"! I like it.

Nancy... readiness. Yes, I can see that. And it is a mystery, is it not, as to how we become ready? Life. Life in God. I shall never come very close to figuring these out!

3:31 PM  
OpenID spaghettipie said...

I have thought through my view of God as Father lately, especially as my community group has read the Shack together. I think you will really enjoy reading it.

Your post made me think of two things. One is how I limit my view of God as Father by my relationship with my earthly father. Here's a quote from the Shack (since that was brought up):
"The problem is that many folks try to grasp some sense of who I am by taking the best version of themselves (me: or their father), projecting that to the nth degree, factoring in all the goodness they can perceive, which often isn't much, and then call that God. And while it may seem like a noble effort, the truth is that it falls pitifully short of who I really am. I'm not merely the best version of you that you can think of. I am far more than that, above and beyond all that you can ask or think."

The second thought that occurred to me was when a visiting teacher came to our church. He expanded on the meaning of Abba through two main illustrations. One, his daughter kicks a winning goal for her soccer team. She looks around to see if her dad notices. She locks eyes with him, and then begins running for him, outstretched arms, crying, "Daddy!" He with equal joy, stretches his arms open and receives her.

Two, his son is awakened by thunder in the middle of the night, and in a trembling voice calls out "Daddy!" He rushes to his side, wraps his arms around him, and tells him everything will be fine; he's there.
I look forward to hearing more of your journey in knowing your father.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Haha...ok, my previous comment sounds funny to me now. I think what I meant is that the way God the Father was portrayed in The Shack didn't touch me nearly as deeply as many of the other things the author said. I did like the book. I wouldn't base my entire theology around it, but I liked it. I think they said some things that will change me as they sink in.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

There is definitely overlap in parents' roles, but as it pertains to distinctive particulars, let pause to think before answering. I'll be back.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Every Square Inch said...

I love your honesty and thoughtfulness.

The wonderful thing about your inquiry is that the Triune God is eager to reveal Himself to us - Father, Son, Spirit. God, the Father isn't just a heavenly metaphorical expression for an earthly father. He is a member of the Triune God, revealed in Scripture.

I guess what I'm saying is that we discover what a father is like by looking to God, the Father, not by comparing Him to earthly fathers (even good ones).

Grace to you in your search

11:48 PM  
Blogger Michelle Gregory said...

I'm in the midst of looking for him, too.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Jennifer, Snapshot said...

As always, your posts leave me thinking.

I have read Stone Crossings (and promise--cross my heart--to get a review up this very week).

And interesting that you mention the Shack, because a friend just recommended it, and it just arrived yesterday. I hadn't heard a thing about it.

Anyway--what you got me to thinking about is the Father--heavenly and earthly. Those relationships change and morph and are so different from one person to the next, so there's much to ponder.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

My earthly father has disowned and disinherited me. I cannot superimpose his traits onto God.

I'm beginning to believe that in speaking to us through Scripture, God was inclined to use analogies that we could relate to, but were not perfect. When He (The One Whose Name We Dare Not Utter)used gendered speech because we would be able to understand it and identify with it.

When TOWNWDNU used the term "father" TOWNWDNU obviously meant for us to interpret "father" in its best light.

I believe TOWNWDNU is genderless or embodies the best of both genders. It seems distant to refer to God as "It," so TOWNWDNU referred to Itself in the male form.

This is probably considered heretical in some Christian circles and I myself honestly have ridiculed efforts to remove gender from Scripture.

Peace, Kim (Sometimes it's nice to have an androgynous name. I use it over my first name. It keeps people who don't know me guessing)

4:05 PM  
Blogger Lynet said...

It's hard for me to comment on this because I'm in no position to have an opinion on what God is or is not. Still, I think if I believed in an omniscient, omnipotent creator who cares for human beings, I would be inclined to suspect that mother, lover, grandmother and all the rest would be just as relevant as 'father' in understanding such an entity.

That said, if you seek an understanding of God as Father, maybe you'll find a better understanding of what true fatherhood should be.

2:38 AM  
Blogger Nikki said...

Well... you asked, I answer. :) To the best of my limited knowledge, the gods and goddesses of classical paganism were generally either modalist or distinct and multiple. So, for instance, you see references in some pagan literature to a "triple goddess" (sometimes representing the phases of the moon) that may be pointed to as some sort of precursor to Trinity, but I believe it is thought that the Goddess(es) are either a triad of distinct entities, or that there is only one entity who has three modes of being, often described in terms of age or life phase (which makes some sense of the moon-phase analogy).

What makes Trinity different? Well, a triadic understanding of Trinity would make Christians polytheistic, which we certainly don't claim to be. Then again, the Christian God defies correct explanation in terms of modes (or aspects or roles) if we are indeed Trinitarian. Modalism was condemned as heresy in the first 200 years after Christ's resurrection, as it denies the full personhood of the three coessential persons of the Trinity.

At the risk of sounding flippant, what separates Trinity from some sort of understanding of God as existing in multiple manifestations is that Trinity is pretty near impossible to conceptualize, while we know full well what it is to be distinct persons, and we can imagine a sort of shape-shifting modalist God without too much trouble. What is it, on the other hand, to be three co-eternal persons in one essence? Perhaps I am more limited than some in the areas of faith or intellect, but I'm a bit sceptical of anyone who claims to know, I mean REALLY know.

That God is personal and reveals Himself to us in terms we understand -- terms of relationship -- means we come closer to experiencing Him authentically than we might otherwise, but even those relationship words come loaded by our time, place and particular circumstances. We see, in the words of Scripture, "through a glass, darkly". It behooves us to get to know our God as well as we can, but it is far too easy for me as a Christian to become too hung up on either wanting a particular emotional experience of God or wanting to explain in words what cannot be distilled into language. Our souls yearn for God like a deer panting for the water, but we cannot help but see and feel and know Him imperfectly, while He sees us perfectly and knows and will meet our deepest needs if we are simply open to Him. That, I feel, is the safest resting place, and I hope to make my way to that space someday.

9:51 AM  

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