Beloved Dad. That was the clue that did me in. See, earlier this week I put together a game to review what the phrases in the Lord's Prayer mean. The clue for "deliver us from evil" was keep us from bad things. It was a great review for the children and youth of our congregation, as we had been learning the Lord's Prayer this month.
Beloved Dad. The clue was for "Our Father," the very first phrase of the prayer. Jesus told his followers that Almighty God was their dad; that He loved them as a father loves his children.
And hard. Hard for those of us whose earthly fathers aren't so hot. For the children in my classes, churches, and neighborhoods...even in my own home at an ugly point in the past. For the kid whose dad is in jail for killing his mom. For the kid whose dad burned her with cigarettes. For the kid whose dad abandoned him before birth. For the kid whose dad sexually molested her from the age of two until he went to jail when she was 12.
And for me. My relationship with my earthly dad is rocky at best, and I hadn't communicated with him for more than six years when I sent him a Christmas card last December. I sent it because I wanted to open a door. He's the one who (six years ago) told me he didn't want to be my dad anymore. But I thought that a Christmas card, letting him know we'd moved, was a kind gesture.
Not so much. In return, I received a box containing every single picture, card, note, etc. that I (or my children) had ever given him. And a letter saying that he didn't want to communicate. Signed with his name, not "dad."
So how do those of us with these fathers approach a loving Heavenly Father?
I don't know. What I do know is that God loves me completely. Because of Jesus' finished work on the cross, God sees me as righteous. I am wholly acceptable to Him. As I have never been to my biological father.
And I do know that God has comforted me through my earthly father's rejections. He has filled me with peace about my choices to contact and not-contact him. He has given me two fabulous step-dads.
I pray for my biological father. I pray for my dear step-father. I pray for myself, that I can forgive the shortcomings of my earthly father. I pray for all the children I know whose earthly fathers fail them, that they may know their Heavenly Father and His steadfast love.
Because ultimately, the only Father that matters is the eternal one.