Big Daddy

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“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.'” (Matthew 6:9)

Before he retired, my dad was the academic vice president of a university. From what I’ve heard, he was a force to be reckoned with and quite intimidating to many of the faculty. But I remember waltzing into his office whenever I wanted. He was always glad to see me, even if he was busy. I had unlimited visiting rights and never sensed the fear factor I’d heard so much about. He may have been the Godfather to the underlings, but to me he was Dad.

The God of the Bible wasn’t always thought of as a father. Throughout the Old Testament he was a creator, warrior, storm god, fertility god, and lawgiver, to name a few. But references to God as a father figure are scarce. It’s really in the New Testament that God comes into his own as a heavenly dad.

Jesus refers to God as his father right from the start. (This, of course, helped get him killed.) He then tells his followers that God is their father too. The Apostle Paul jumps on the concept and his letters are filled with references to God as a father. It remains the most attractive image we Christians have of God. He may be a terrifying, earth-shattering deity, but he’s our dad too.

So what does it mean that God is a father? It means he loves us and takes care of us. It also means that he knows what’s good for us, even when—or especially when—we have no clue for ourselves. That God is our father means that he’s on our side though we may be total jerks, which we are most of the time. A good dad loves his kids whether they’re paragons of virtue (rare) or models of stupidity (common). Dads also sacrifice for their kids, putting their needs above his own. Good dads also want their kids to have the best and will often extend themselves beyond reason to see that they get it. Dads also whup butt when necessary and will not hesitate to lower the boom when their precious little baby gets out of line. Dads may be teddy bears but they carry big freaking sticks.

Though I like to think of God as the infinite deity of exploding glory, I’m glad that Jesus teaches me to think of him as a loving father too. The more I violate the rules of religious propriety, the more I depend on God’s father status as a safeguard against obliteration. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get taken to that big woodshed in the sky, but I’m reassured that the guy with the spanking stick isn’t planning on killing me, only maiming me a little.

So happy Father’s Day, God. I’ll try to stay out of trouble today. Hope you appreciate it.

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