Pastor Peter’s “Letter to My Grown Children: Our Father”





An open letter to my grown children

Hi guys,

I suspect “mucho macho” is more Spanglish than Spanish. But the expression clearly conveys the idea of “very macho.” In English, there is more than a hint of disapproval with the use of “macho.” In fact, the Spanish word “machismo” is understood in English as having an exaggerated sense of masculinity, and is almost always used in a bad sense. Many years ago, a dear Seminarian friend of mine who was a missionary to the Spanish speaking people pointed out to me that “machismo” in Spanish simply means “maleness.” “It is common for the Latin community to talk about what it means to be a man, about maleness,” he explains. “But in America, when you open your mouth to talk about maleness, you are immediately rejected as a ‘male chauvinist pig.’” (In Chinese, to be a man (nánzǐhàn) suggests courage, personal responsibility, etc.)

I heard those remarks more than 30 years ago, and I shelved it as an interesting factoid, but probably not very relevant to my world. Yet, of late, I am thinking that the subject of maleness is actually very relevant. I have been deliberating on what it means when we say, “Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name …” What is the Fatherhood of God? There is something in the Fatherhood of God that meets our needs because of the failure of our own fathers, and of our failure as fathers. God our heavenly Father is the perfect father we long for in our earthly father. Yet too many people can only see the failures in their own fathers.

My relationship with my father was distant. I could not connect with him in his actions, his philosophy of life, etc. That changed when mom, (at that time we were only starting to go out), said to me, “It is obvious that your father loves you very much.” I was incredulous. She must be seeing things I don’t see. But your mom’s remarks made me want to relate to my dad, so perhaps I can see what she sees as obvious, and what I saw and painfully obvious – not. Thanks to mom, I hung out with my dad more and began to understand him better. And as things would have it, he died not long after I started hanging out with him more. So I have mom to thank for saving me from indifference towards my dad.

Every son or daughter views his or her own father and develops an understanding of fatherhood and maleness from there. Our earthly father can be a model of maleness or a negative example of maleness. We use him as a measure of what we like, or not, about maleness – and fatherhood.

When we come to faith in Jesus, and he teaches us to call on “Our Father in heaven” we may do a double take. We can see in God the ideal Father, but more commonly, we see in God our heavenly Father only as what our father is not. That is, we sort of say, “OK, I know God is our ideal heavenly Father. So … he is not like my earthly father.” We can’t really pin point what it means for God to be our heavenly Father, we can only say what he is not, as our heavenly Father. By extension, we can’t really say what we want of ideal maleness because we can’t articulate ideal fatherhood.

This failure has consequences. On my part, I decided, “I don’t want to be a father. I know I will fail in any fatherhood.” For some daughters, it is to give up on what God as Father might look like, and start relating to God as mother, and argue for “Our Mother in heaven.” Which, interestingly, almost never happens to sons no matter what the failure of their fathers might have been. For a son to give up on finding the fatherhood in God would be for him to give up on his own identity as a male. He may continue to have a mental image of God his heavenly Father only in terms of what God is not (that is, not like his earthly father), but this vagueness would have to do until he discovers God as heavenly Father.

I also recall in Seminary that one of the least known aspects of God is God as Father. We say the Trinity is “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Yet the Fatherhood of God is so little known or even studied. It is there is Scripture, but it is all over. It doesn’t come to us in a sustained discourse.

A deep study of the Fatherhood of God is pretty scary. For a son or daughter, it can be a journey into painful places where their own fathers have failed, or worse, to see their failed fathers in God whom they are supposed to love. For a father, it can be an excruciatingly painful journey because in addition to seeing the failure of their fathers, we enter into ourselves and face our own failure as fathers.

Ideal fatherhood. Ideal maleness. These are scary even to explore. When we see only failure in fatherhood, and consequently in maleness, mucho macho can simply mean more of a bad thing.

Yet Jesus invites us to find God as Father. He tells us to begin our relationship with God as “Our Father …”

All of humankind never once fully understood perfect fatherhood. Adam fell into sin before he became a father. He was never once a perfect father even though he had enjoyed God as his perfect heavenly Father. The sons and daughters of Adam never knew the perfect relationship of father to children and children to father. At the same time, we note that the primary way in which Jesus related to the first person of the Trinity is “Father” and his primary relationship to the first person of the Trinity is “Son.”

One small example of Fatherhood and Sonship in God the Father and God the Son can be seen in the following.

Matthew 11 25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” 27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Jesus stood as Son to Father, the Father stood as Father to Son in the Trinitarian relationship. Jesus also makes it clear that “no one” knows Jesus the Son as God the Father. And “no one” knows God the Father as Jesus the Son. There we have it. No one in all of humanity ever understood the true fatherhood of God. No wonder sons and daughters cannot understand their earthly fathers!

In his simple assertion that “no one” knows the Father as he does, Jesus points us to the solution. We need to come to the place of utter hopelessness in understanding true fatherhood that we find the true deliverance. Jesus points us to the bleakness of finding God’s Fatherhood. But he also points to the true hope – in himself. While “no one” knows the Father, there is the Son who knows the Father! Jesus the Son knows the Father! There is someone who knows the Father. Jesus.

Good News. Not only does Jesus know the Father, he is able to “reveal him.” Jesus is able to reveal God the Father “to whom the Son chooses.” For every son and daughter disillusioned by his or her father, there is a Father in God for whom our heart longs. And Jesus has come to reveal that Father to us.

After Jesus declares both the hopelessness of finding our true Father, and how he provides the solution in himself, he says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

The burden of not having the perfect Father we crave, and the burden of not being the father we ought to be, can be laid to rest. The hopelessness of true fatherhood to which we have surrendered ourselves finds deliverance in Jesus!

Sure. Jesus bears our wearied burdens in all of life when we come to him. That is true. It is the broader reference. But the specific reference is to fatherhood.

To the impossible burden to discover true fatherhood, to the heart’s longing to find our true father , and to become the true father, Jesus says, “Come to me.” To those who go to Jesus to find true fatherhood, he says, “I will give you rest.”

Jesus recognizes the full extent of failed fatherhood in humanity. And he has come to redeem failed fatherhood. He knows the Father, and wants to bring us into the heart of our heavenly Father. He knows our failures as fathers and calls us to first find God our father and discover in our Father the true fatherhood for our children.

Your less than perfect,

Pa Pa


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