‘’So, what’s it like for you being a dad?’’ I asked a friend the other day whom I consider to be a really good dad.
He said, ‘’It is the thing in my life I am most proud of. It is the legacy that will remain long after I am gone. It marks us as family, which nurtured the relationships that sustain me as no other can, and in those relationships I have found happiness. It also gives me some idea of what it feels like to create and to know how much one loves what he’s created. A graceful glimpse of just a bit that God must feel.’’
And then he added, ”And, honestly, it is sometimes the greatest cause of frustration in my life. Again, maybe a glimpse at what God feels.”
I met recently with a group talking about some passages from the Bible. We wondered what it might be like being God. What do things look like from God’s point of view? We concluded it must be terrible and wonderful all at the same time.
Imagine knowing all of the heart break that people are feeling, knowing the ways relationships may be on the brink of falling apart, all the ways lives are cut short of what was intended for them. It would be to exist with a heart forever being broken open by all the harm and brokenness in the world. Just this week there was a fire in London and a terrible shooting in Virginia. Those are just the things that got our attention. Imagine all the heartbreak and grief God must know.
At the same time there is joy and goodness at the ways humans, your own creatures, overcome adversity, establish relationships across boundaries, provide for each other, mend what’s been broken, and fill one another with enough hope that it comes close to making the world right. It must surely be like that for God, and so much more, in so many complicated, contradictory, and complimentary ways as God chooses to love the world and all of us as God’s creatures.
Another friend wrote recently that it is such a thrill to see your children grow up and start to make some important decisions. You can’t help but get a lump in your throat when they first fall in love, especially if you happen to fall into a little bit of love yourself with someone who brings them joy and goodness. And your heart breaks in a whole new way when that first love falters and you see some possibilities fade.
Being a dad may give us a glimpse of what God might see, just as being a mom gives us a small hint of what things might be like for God.
As Father’s Day comes around again, may we be reminded of the ways we live out what has been created in us as children. Whether we are dads, or moms, or without children, we have been given an opportunity to offer a better legacy to the world. Sometimes it may be frustrating, especially when we see terrible things happen. But that doesn’t stop God from loving us, just as most parents don’t stop loving their children even when it’s hard.
Maybe it’s a little hint of what God might say. Go into the world. Love neighbors. When they don’t love you, love them anyway. Remember to love yourself. When you don’t, love yourself anyway. Love enemies, even the ones who are really difficult. When they’re determined to do you in, love them anyway. When we do, we become more like the mother who will not give up her nursing child, or the father who runs to welcome the errant child back home. In doing those things we may move a step closer to what God intended in creating the world.
Lander Bethel is the minister of Grand Avenue Presbyterian in Sherman and First Presbyterian Church in Denison. He obtained a degree in psychology from the University of Oklahoma before attending McCormick Theological Seminary. He lives in Sherman with his wife and three sons.