I am your father: Even if you haven’t seen any of the Star Wars movies you’ve probably heard someone quote this classic line, spoken as the masked villain reveals his identity to the shocked hero. Let me let you into a little secret: while many men scoff at the touchy-feely nature of “chick flicks”, it’s amazing how emotionally charged male-oriented movies are—so often they deal with themes of love, loss, grief, family and friendship. “Buddy movies” and “road movies” throw the protagonists together in unlikely circumstances, building or testing their relationship. The bonds of brotherhood come into play in cowboy and war movies as characters selflessly sacrifice themselves for one another.
And it’s amazing how many movies invoke that most primal of male bonds to give the storytelling emotional punch: the father-son relationship. Driven by their need for their father’s approval, superhero brothers Thor and Loki vie for supremacy in the Avengers franchise. Indiana Jones struggles to overcome his estrangement from his father as they battle Nazis together. In Back to the Future Marty McFly travels back in time to save his father from his own spinelessness. Even comedies like Kenny or Boy or kids’ movies (How to Train your Dragon, Finding Nemo) make the father relationship central to their plot.
Absent fathers, distant fathers, abusive fathers, dysfunctional fathers, tough-love fathers, supportive fun-loving fathers. The emotional tone of a movie—and a life—is often determined by the kind of father involved.
There’s something distinct and special about a father’s role in our lives. Yes, mothers usually devote more hours to raising children than fathers but, to many mothers’ chagrin, kids often take their mum’s constancy and nurture for granted while they hero-worship their dad. Mum is safe; dad is awesome! Dads challenge kids to explore, to get dirty, to try new and dangerous things—all with the knowledge that if things go wrong it’s OK, I’ll catch you, I’m right here.
Have you ever seen your dad kick a ball so high it nearly grazed the moon? Have you ventured with him out to where great green translucent rollers grow, poise and peak before crashing towards the beach in a fury of foam? I have. For a kid, a dad is a towering, heroic figure, seemingly capable of anything. And to mystifyingly gain the love, attention and approval of such a being is nothing short of a miracle.
That’s why one of the most powerful metaphors in Scripture is the idea that God has adopted us into His family: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). “The Father”, “our Father”—words that convey warmth and belonging while challenging us to be the best we can be. My heart is longing for the day when I’ll be in the very presence of that glorious fiery rainbow-ringed throne and hear the words, “I am your Father.”