God: Our Heavenly Role Model for Fathering
By Paula White
All fathers who have believed upon Christ for salvation want to be like him. Yet, many of God’s attributes are far above us, not attainable in the human experience. God is omniscient, all-wise, all-sufficient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and holy, perfect in all of his ways. No earthly father can claim these attributes. So where do we go in Scripture to learn to be like God as a father? Here is something so basic and obvious that you will think it ridiculous: God is a Father who desires to be known by his children. Obvious, you say. Yes. Take a moment to think about it, anyway. Let’s look at what this very basic characteristic of our Father can show us about what it means to be a father in his likeness.
From the very beginning, when God walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day with Adam and Eve, they enjoyed fellowship. Have you ever asked yourself what the Creator of the Universe said to his children during their visits, and what did Adam and Eve say to him, I wonder, in those times of communion before the fall? Perhaps they talked about the discoveries Adam and Eve had made in the garden as they explored the creation. Maybe they laughed about the animals and their amusing behavior – the donkey’s braying! Perhaps they thanked God for surrounding them with such stunning beauty and the intricacies of the plants and flowers in the garden. Whatever the conversation, it must have been amazing to have the attention of the very Creator of the Universe and to have him speak his thoughts out loud. It must have been the most superb communication and fellowship—initiated by God himself as he sought out his children, Adam and Eve, in the cool of the day. It sounds like ultimate relaxation and enjoyment—no hurry or other things to interfere, nothing more important for the God of the Universe or his children to be doing—that is, before the fall.
So this is the ideal—God our Father seeks us out. Here is a question that might cause a bit of wincing. At the end of the day when you have finished your work, do you seek your children’s company? Is time spent with your children ultimate enjoyment and pleasure for you, or are you preoccupied with other things, and do you find that in the busy-ness of your life that your children must seek you out, sometimes struggling to get your attention, and sometimes giving up? What a struggle it is to follow God’s example. It is a good thing to stop and ask if you really desire for your children to know you as God longs for us to know him. Do you make a conscious effort to reveal your heart to your children? I only ask because God does this toward us.
Here is another question to ponder! What does the “you” look like that you want to reveal to your children? Perhaps it would it be the polished, touched-up portrait that you try to present to the rest of the world—the accomplished, competent, handsome, magnanimous, gracious, smart man, the one that is always right. Or, perhaps it would be the more real photograph of the struggling man, deeply involved in the life or death fight against the powers of this world and the devil, a man who falls sometimes—yes—a sinner: vulnerable, but trusting God for salvation and believing whole heartedly in the steadfast love of his God. You say, of course I want my children to see my best image. What is wrong with that? Nothing—in fact, it is what they will not see that will be missing. What do I mean? Think of the lessons you long to teach your children: how to be a person who repentant sinner; how to seek forgiveness and change behavior. I wonder how these lessons will be learned by your children if all they see is your best image all of the time.
In fact, if we are honest, it’s not possible. Likely your children have witnessed some cracks in your portrait. They have seen you angry, and heard you say mean or selfish words to their mother, to them, or to someone else. Have they heard you ask forgiveness for those words, and have they noticed the genuine sorrow in your voice because you have displeased your wife or Heavenly Father? This is where real teaching of what it means to be a son or daughter of the Heavenly Father begins—by your example. Like your Heavenly Father, do you demonstrate to your children that you intend good for them? (Jeremiah 29:11) Do you seek out your children and communicate to them the love that comes from God as you daily “walk” with them and exchange conversation in the “garden” of your daily life?
You say, “God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden before the fall! That is an unrealistic standard – God’s relationship is not like that with us anymore!” No it isn’t, is it? After the fall, God could have said, “They had their chance, and they blew it. They were privileged to walk with me, the Lord of the Universe, in the garden I made for them, but they did not appreciate it, so they are not worthy of me! I will have nothing more to do with them!” But that is not what we find at all.
Between Genesis and Revelation, we find all that God has done to restore our fellowship with him and to continue to reveal himself that we might truly know him and enjoy his fellowship forever. In fact, God’s love and desire for our being with him compelled him to send his only begotten Son into ourworld, to die on a cross to pay our penalty for sins. Why? To restore fellowship between God and his children.
This knowing and being known seems a bigger part of the fatherhood model than we realized! God wants us to know him. He has given us all we need to know him, and he wants us to be with him where he is. Let’s take these truths and demonstrate them to our children. Let’s enjoy being with them, communicating and sharing ourselves, interceding for them just as Jesus Christ intercedes for us with the Heavenly Father—that we may all be with him where he is (John 17). This could be the most important lesson of your father-role: those who seek God find him. He wants to be known. “’You will seek me and find me,’ says the Lord, ‘when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord. . .” May you as a father demonstrate this life-saving truth to your children. As you reveal yourself—in all your struggling, repentance, and faith—to them, may they learn how to seek after God!