A Father’s Love
An Earthly and Heavenly Perspective
When I met Mike, he looked like a Hollywood movie star. He was young, elegant, had a million-dollar smile, and plenty of personality to back it up. But as I got to know him better, I learned that he had a dark past with many painful experiences. He had been in and out of prison due to drug abuse and other illegal activities to support his habit. As Mike shared more with me, attempting to find peace with his Heavenly Father, the conversation turned to his earthly father. It was during this intimate conversation about his father that some painful memories surfaced.
He grew up with several siblings in a very conservative Seventh-day Adventist home, but being the oldest wasn’t easy, and the bar of expectations was set painfully high. In high school, if his report card showed all As, but one C, his dad only noticed the C. He was never good enough for his dad and, though he tried, it was a hopeless case.
The tensions between father and son increased, and as a young man he decided to leave home for good. His dad was offended that Mike left, and because of his hurt feelings, he never went after or called his son. Mike told me that he called home several times, but only his mom would answer the phone. His dad refused to talk to him.
He sat in my pastoral office, crying as he recounted the details that were eating away at him and destroying his self-esteem. He asked me, “How do I know that the heavenly Father you talk about will accept me and take me back? My Dad never did.” I reassured him that when he calls the Heavenly Father, He will run to the phone. I was unsure of the effect of my words; the wounds were too deep and had sat unattended for too long.
Malachi ends the writings of the Old Testament with a dire warning. The prophet tells us that before the coming of the Lord, the hearts of the fathers would be turned to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, “lest I come and strike the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:6, NKJV). That curse is seen and felt by countless boys and girls. Their daddy has either abandoned them or abandoned the important role of being a loving and present father. Statistics reveal that when fathers are absent, crime, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, and suicide increase up to four times more than the national average of those who have fathers present and active in their lives.
Every child wants to know that their daddy loves them and believes in them. Without these affirmations, these beautiful children become wounded adults who often perpetuate their own wounds. Fathers play an important role in the self-esteem, security, and faith of the children. As fathers, there is a spiritual and moral level of protection that our families need. Embracing Godly leadership at home allows us to bless and pray for our children and their mother. Having children see their father pray for and praise their mother and other members of the family is an example of eternal value.
When we read about the prodigal son, we place great emphasis on him, his state of mind, and his return home. But I believe that Jesus’ emphasis was on the father’s love and the father’s reception and love for his son. Yes, the son returned; yes, the son was received; but how was he received? Jesus tells us that the father ran to the child. I believe the Father not only receives us, He pursues us! He doesn’t pursue us to tell us how bad we are, or how much we embarrassed Him and ourselves, but instead He pursues us to love us and reestablish the father-child connection. After the prodigal’s father established this connection, he did something important, but easy to overlook. Jesus tells us that the father called for the best robe, put a ring on his son’s finger, sandals on his feet, killed a fatted calf, and then began a celebration.
The return of the son is significant, but the response of the father is even more significant. This enormous celebration shows the enormity of the father’s love. The father didn’t allow the son to go down the road of guilt and shame. The father didn’t remind him of all the money he had lost. The father had compassion on his son and he gave gifts to his son.
The gifts are significant because they represent a full restoration that included all the father’s wealth, without reservation. The father’s love was extravagant; it is the key to this classic story. When loving fathers make amends with their wayward children, there is a great shift in the spiritual realm that affects the life of the child and ripples from the family unit to the whole world with blessings.
Mike made his decision for the Heavenly Father and was baptized into His family. He continued to struggle with both his earthly father and his personal battles for the rest of his life. I continued to remind him that his Heavenly Father’s love was uncompromising and that the Son’s sacrifice was all encompassing. If you face challenges with your earthly father, I urge you to accept this truth and know that God loves you immensely and He longs to draw you near to Him. He loves you so much, He paid the ultimate sacrifice in order to guarantee that for you.
As you raise your children, know that every child has the deep desire to be approved, loved, and affirmed by their earthly dad. As you educate your littles ones at home and lead them in the footsteps of Jesus, ask yourself how well you are doing. Is that what your kids would say, dad?