Having grown up hearing and learning the meaning of the “Father-heart of God”, I have never thought to sit and write a definition, until now as we prepare for a time of staff training (or envisioning). And as I have recently been told that the term didn’t make grammatical sense to someone -I wondered if it was our (mine and Samuel’s) Canadian, British and Ugandan language background, and similar church and training background that gave as a unique understanding of a term that maybe doesn’t actually makes sense? But when I googled it, mostly American blogs and studies came up - so American English uses the term too …but what does the term mean? That is what I want to write about here.
I am sitting in a coffee shop, thinking about the Father-heart of God, with headphones on. I felt compelled to listen to “How Great Thou Art” as I write and wish I could sing at the top of my voice while sitting here… thinking of all that it has ever meant to me and what it means now, the great truths and profound depths of love, hope, and ultimate identity stir worship in my heart.
Most of us know that one of the “names” or “titles” for God is “Father”. But have we taken the time to truly reflect on God’s HEART as our Father? We can come to God and call Him “Abba” or “Papa”. If we can call Him Abba then what does that in turn reveal about His heart AS Papa/Abba/Father/Daddy?
Jesus revealed the Father to us, and we in turn are Ambassadors of Christ -we are meant to reflect and reveal God’s heart, His Fatherhood, His Father-heart to the world.
How do I as a: daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother, neighbour, writer, teacher, missionary, leader, worshipper, singer, servant -how do I reflect and reveal the Father-heart of God?
I must first understand it -not theoretically, not philosophically, not theologically, but experientially.
I hope to express here, just a little, of what the term “Father-heart of God” means to me, of what truth I have learnt on my own journey of learning to know and experience the Father-heart of God…and, I am not there yet, not all the way, but below is some point form and some scriptures and questions for further study. I hope you will be encouraged to seek to know both what the term “Father-heart of God” means, and to experience the love and intimacy that is available to us, and to be shared in knowing God as our Father - experientially.
Aside from the truths learnt, I am not going to say too much about myself nor the circumstances that originally brought me to my first (and subsequent) experiences of knowing the Father-heart of God, except to say that in great pain, disillusionment, feelings of rejection, and confusion, in family and in church life, I first felt very deeply and was able to share in my 5th grade classroom, as a young girl, the fact that I knew deeply that God IS my Father, and that no matter what human failings I might observe, no matter if those who taught me God’s Word completely lived out the truths of His Word (and ultimately none of us do completely, though we should strive to), that His Word IS true. He IS a Father to the fatherless. I learnt that profoundly, deeply, truly, at the age of 12. And I have been on a journey of growing and learning and experiencing the (inner-)healing that comes with that truth. …and not that God is ONLY Father -He is also Creator, Husband, Redeemer, Healer, Peace, Saviour, Sanctifier, and SO much more -but I think that because God created us to be in family and to learn, know and express identity in family, it is profoundly important to know Him as Father. Not to just know or even pray to the “name” Father, but to understand His heart as Father-God.
For a brief time before understanding God as my Father, and consequently, at times as I grew and matured in my walk, I experienced (to varying degrees) an “orphan-heart” (which, along with “Father-heart”, may be an unfamiliar term -but I will not go into that here). It is that “orphan-heart” that cries out to know and experience adoption, relationship, and identity in God as Father.
Who is God, as Father? What does His Word reveal to us about His Father-heart?
· Throughout the old testament we see God as a Father to Israel, one place that I love, is the graphic parable told by Ezekiel, of God finding Israel as an abandoned and bloody baby girl, left in a field. It is His Father-heart that compels Him to go to save that baby girl -that nation – me- you.
· God the Father, is of course the Father of Jesus (both through the immaculate conception, and in eternal relationship – in the mystery of the Trinity, ONE God, but 3 distinct persons)…He shows His Father-heart TO Jesus, which is a revelation of His heart to us (2 examples in scripture are in Matthew 3:17 at Jesus’ baptism, in Matt. 17:5, at the transfiguration) :
o The Father states about Jesus that He is, “My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” and says to “listen to Him” - this shows some characteristics of God’s love for Jesus as His Son, and as He is our Father (along with other scriptures which confirm this) He has the same heart towards us as His children: IDENTITY, APPROVAL, LOVE
· We are constantly loved by our Father God
· He provides for us (daily food, presence, gifts, healing)
· He disciplines us and He teaches us
· He offers forgiveness as our Father
· We have a HOPE and FUTURE because of His Father-heart
· When in a relationship with our Father-God, we are made perfect in His love and our fears are eliminated
· When we worship we experience the Father’s love
· When we GIVE love (in obedience and in relationship with Him), we also experience His love
There is so much more that I could say from experience, from observation, from learning, from research, and more importantly from God’s Word, but in conclusion here, maybe as more of a definition of the term itself: the “Father-heart of God” describes not only a characteristic, name, and position, but an intrinsic, innate nature and attitude. Someone recently said something to me about my own “mother’s-heart” in relation to my son being away and probably missing him and longing to be with him. In the same way, God has a Father-heart toward me and you. Because God is GOD, and is I AM, and is revealed to us, as ONE God, made of THREE persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), revealed with so many names/titles/characteristics He is not limited as I am, and is greater than I could ever express here, but I hope that at least explains the term (?)