During the week a young, high-profile New Zealand sportsman was all over the news media because he got incredibly drunk, ended up naked in a bar, was boorish, violent and obnoxious. At face value it seems like a typical case of spoilt athlete, thinking he’s above what we may consider ‘acceptable behaviour.’ This incident was on top of a few other incidents, just in the last few months. ‘Sack him’, many are saying. But then I discovered that just over 2 years ago, his dad had died suddenly.
Ah, now it makes sense. This young man had lost his hero, his mentor, his rock and now his world is all at sea. Any sporting success he may be having (and he’s having plenty) cannot take away the pain of the heart that arises from being fatherless. This young man may get counselling, join a rehab programme, quit alcohol but there’s only one way for the pain in his heart to be healed. God the Father has to show up. I pray that he will for this troubled and wounded young man.
John Eldredge writes this in his book, ‘Fathered by God’:
“Central to Jesus’ teaching is that our lives find their fulfilment in union with our heavenly Father. Our fathers were meant to teach us truly about our heavenly Father and guide us into that union and teach us to walk with him. Now, if our earthly fathers were good, the transition will be rather seamless. If they were not, we find it a hard transition to make, for we project onto God what we have experienced from our fathers here.”
This insight applies to both men and women. So, let me ask you a few questions; Men, were you the ‘apple of your father’s eye’, his delight? Did you feel like the beloved son in his presence? Women, were you delighted in by your father? Did you feel precious and beautiful in his sight? This is how God the Father sees us. Listen to Eldredge again (women, this is addressed to men but you’re at the heart of this as well!).
Oh! Ephraim is my dear, dear son, my child in whom I take pleasure! Every time I
mention his name, my heart bursts with longing for him! Everything in me cries
out for him. Softly and tenderly I wait for him. (Jer. 31:20 The
Put your own name in this verse, in the place of “Ephraim” (a
name for God’s people, and that includes you). Imagine that God’s heart bursts
with longing for you. This is the message of Jesus: there is a good and loving
father who cares so deeply and passionately for you. He yearns to be your Father
now. He will draw near, if you’ll let him. No matter how old we are, our true
Father wants us to experience being his Beloved Sons, and all the joys of
boyhood that go with it. But it requires opening our hearts, which will take us
back into some of our deepest wounds, and the cynicism and resignation that shut
our hearts down a long time ago. God does this so that he might bring his love
and healing to the fatherless boy within us, the boy that still needs to know he
is the Beloved Son.
I have been able to forgive my dad for the many gaps he left in my life, but now as a dad I have a desperate need for God to father me. I take comfort in the words of Jesus in John 14:18 and 23; “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” and “My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” God is our good and true Father.
Come Father; come and set us free to be your beloved sons, your beloved daughters. Help us to believe it; to believe that what’s true for Jesus is true for us. Amen.