It needs to be said: a father is not just a mother with whiskers. In addition to all the parallel responsibilities there is actually a lot more pressure on being a father than being a mother.
Granted we miss child-birthing experiences, from obstetrician visits, to morning sickness, epidural needles, stretch marks, caesareans, 20-hour labours, nine-pound (4 kg) babies . . .
I fully appreciate all of this—OK, so not FULLY, but certainly enough to feel faint just musing about it.
The ultimate pressure arrives from a father being used as an analogy of God, being our Father in heaven.
Now that’s unfair pressure! No? How can any earthly father live and love even close to the amazing love God has towards His children (us)?
It’s said that fatherhood is not for everyone—particularly if you’re a woman—some guys just shouldn’t be fathers. On one hand there are those who can’t tell a bad joke well, a mandatory requirement of being a father (see what I did there?). On the more tragically serious side, there are fathers who cannot control themselves and abuse their kids, ranging from the horrifically physical and emotional abuse, down to the simple but hurtful abuse of disinterest in their children.
For many, their mother may have been far more loving than their father. So perhaps in that case an analogy of God being a loving mother in heaven actually portrays God better. But still, you can have mothers who are by no means loving either.
If every son or daughter had a loving father (or mother), then the world’s picture of God would benefit immensely.
Even so, I think there’s a more powerful understanding that can come from the thought of having God as our Father. It is when you personally have the chance to live the role of a loving father or mother to your offspring. This takes the meaning and comprehension of how loving God is to a far greater level.
As a loving parent, think of this: how much do you love your child? It doesn’t matter if you’re met with tantrums, arguing, whinging, disobedience, backchatting, lying and sometimes just plain inattentive silliness; at the end of the day, literally, you love them so dearly. You melt as they call out “I love you” in return for your declaration of love for them.
Sometimes you want to constantly spoil them with gifts but you know that might hurt their character, or you might even have to let preventable hard times roll, because if you don’t, it might hurt their character. So sometimes the love you provide is not in the form of giving lollies but of taking them away—but the ultimate goal is always their wellbeing, because you love them.
Think about what you’d do for their ultimate happiness despite their sometimes foolish actions. You’d most likely give your life for them.
This is how the God of our universe feels about you. OK, that’s not quite true. God loves you even more than your love for your child, no matter the misbehaviour you’ve fallen into.
There’s not an inkling of abuse in God’s character, not a skerrick of disinterest, not a teaspoon of sourness. Just a 100 per cent loving Father. Your Father.
I invite you now, as a parent or imaginary parent, to spend a moment meditating on how much love you share towards your children and what you’d do for them. Then flip it over and realise, all that love and infinitely more is how God feels towards you.