Describe your dad

From my 2012 Journal. I’ve been taught that our perception of God the Father is often influenced by our earthly dads, but it didn’t seem to ring true for me. Recently, however, I’m beginning to see how wrong I’ve been. I’m realizing anew how distant God the Father feels to me. Jesus I can feel close to. The Holy Spirit is inside me—ethereal but there. But the Father? He is no Papa to me, no Abba Daddy. He represents the immensity of God—power and majesty who dwells in unapproachable light.

“Father” to me means security, benevolence, rough work hands, farmer, verbally silent, expressive in writing, consistent, teacher, and strength . . . but not so much nurturing. Though I adored him and respected him, my dad felt more aloof, more distant emotionally.

I think of the Christ-figure Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia. He wasn’t warm and cuddly either. Is that what I want? Warm and cuddly? What my dad was not? Where’s the balance between an all-powerful God who is also warm and comforting?

I remember sitting one evening in devotions with a missionary family that I was visiting and wishing I could have a dad like that—interactive, nurturing, able to discuss with his kids what we’d just read. In our own twice-daily family devotions, my dad was rigid, predictable, strict and disciplined, no-nonsense, with no discussion.

And then I met Bill Rudd, my high school youth leader—not old enough to be my dad, but an amazing role model of personable sweetness, others-focused, a gifted teacher. When you talked to Bill, you felt like you were the only person in the room. I wondered what it would be like to have a dad like that!

One day I looked up from my pew in church and watched a stately, white-haired gentleman walk in who exuded peace, benevolence and gentleness. My whole heart relaxed, and I longed for and ached to meet this man face to face. I could feel safe with him . . . because things were not always “safe” in my relationships at the time.

As I write, I’m beginning to get a picture of my own ramrod-straight persona: strict, stern, unbending, rigid, disciplined, no-nonsense—just like my dad. Where can I go to feel safe? To feel peace, to feel loved and accepted? It’s not to Abba Father. Why not? What’s holding me back?

It’s because I am a Pharisee. Pharisees don’t feel safe around Jesus. I can’t be a little child who runs and jumps into His lap. I’m a judge and jury and critic and criticizer and analyzer, always on the lookout for the flaws in others . . . because I have so many flaws of my own. I, myself, am not warm and cuddly. So why would I expect God to be?

I’m so ready to shed my Pharisee garments.

When I disrobe, I become a little crippled girl. No wonder I needed Pharisee garments—to feel strong and powerful, at other people’s expense. The Master Shepherd is kind to me, patient, teaching, correcting, gentle, soft, approachable. I am unworthy. I am the little African girl longing for some crumbs from the white man’s table, not the big-shot white girl, lording it over her kingdom.

And now I’m a grown-up in the little African village where I was raised, and I’m welcoming the little children into my arms, loving them, holding them, comforting them. And we’re in a circle, dancing and laughing; and my little white self has joined the circle—one Vanilla Bean in the midst of all that lovely Chocolate.

I can’t see God the Father correctly till I see myself correctly. How can I love Him if I don’t love myself?

And the Spirit pulls me up and out of the scene, up, up, far into the atmosphere where the world is just a small sphere in the distance. “I made that world,” He says, “and all the people in it. I have a job for you to do.”

“I’m willing,” I say, “but that’s an awful lot of people down there, and I am only one tiny drop in the bucket.” But then I see that drop spreading out like ripples in a pond. I may only be one drop, but the consequences and ripples are huge. Am I willing to be that drop? To be dropped? Yes! No longer can I claim my job is too small and insignificant in this world. And what if every believer were willing to be dropped? We’d soak and saturate this old world with refreshing rain. I may be only one drop, but every drop is important. Together we can change the world. Let revival come! Let it rain!

And I find that I’m no longer rigid down my back. Instead, I’m a mighty warrior, ready to fight for truth with the Sword of the Spirit and the Word of God. But I’m also a little girl who feels safe in her Abba’s loving arms.

What was your father like?

I’m a Recovering Pharisee

You will never understand the heart of a Pharisee unless you realize that he sees the plank in his eye as belonging to others (Erwin Lutzer in Who Are You to Judge?)

eye plank

From my 2016 Journal. I am a recovering Pharisee. I identify more with the law than with grace, with Martha more than Mary, with the big brother rather than the prodigal son, with self-righteousness over God’s righteousness. Had I been at the synagogue the day Jesus healed the crippled woman (Luke 13), I would have been the Pharisee condemning Jesus for working on the Sabbath. Self-righteousness is my continual default. I cringe when I read this verse:

 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: (Luke 18:9 NIV)

Thankfully, I’ve come a long, long way in shedding my Pharisaical robes, but I’m not there yet—and won’t be until I get to heaven. Whenever I think that I’m “better than” I’ve crossed the line into self-righteousness.

So, I explore this thought:  If I choose the God path, does that make me superior to those who choose to resist God? My inner Pharisee says yes. But I know that is arrogance.

I am responsible for my own faith, my own choices, my own reactions and responses. I don’t know another person’s heart—not really. We are each accountable to our own master—be it God or Satan or money or pain. Since I’ve chosen God as my master, then I only answer to Him. It is not my job to judge another person’s choices or motives. I might know and recognize that they’ve chosen a poor master, and I can urge them to reconsider their choice, but they may be bound in chains and may not know that freedom is available to them. Why get upset and rage at them for not opening their eyes—when they are truly blinded by the god of this world and cannot see until the God of Heaven opens their eyes.

Lord, remove all stubbornness, pride, arrogance, self-righteousness, and feelings of superiority from my heart. Give me the heart of the sinner who beat his breast and begged God for mercy.