I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to help some people bump into Christ/God lately. I know it’s not my job, nor in my abilities to save them. I’m just supposed to live a good life that might make someone curious to talk to me, and when possible make the introduction.
This is almost embarrassing to admit, but it was only in the last couple of years that I realized that not everyone was fortunate enough to have a good relationship with their father and that telling people that God should be viewed as their spiritual Father wasn’t at all confidence inspiring, in some ways it turned people away. And for years, I was just thankful that I could look at God as my heavenly Father and I was happy. That meant God loved me unconditionally and that I could screw up and still receive His grace.
I was at a small group bible study recently, and the host used the word “Daddy” to describe God. He said that he never knew his father, but that God was his Daddy now. And he used that to convey a lot of what I think of with young kids and their dads. Way more feeling and emotion and… goodness than I just get out of thinking of God as a “Father”. There’s a formality with “Father”. There’s a… stand-offish-ness. A Father is someone who will punish you, or praise you if you get good grades, but a Daddy is who you run to with a scraped knee, who comforts you when you’re scared, who will get down on the floor and play with you or read you the same bedtime story a million times even though he’s bored of it. And I think just as much as God is “Father” there’s probably a feminine side that encompasses God as “Mother” that goes unspoken. Or “Mommy”.
That made me emotionally understand what I only logically understood before. While I’ve got a good relationship with my Dad now, and compared to many, had a wonderful one all my life, he wasn’t emotionally available when we were young. I don’t remember ever calling him Daddy (although I’m sure I did when I was younger) or hugging him or holding his hand. I’m not placing this blame on my Dad, I’m just saying I don’t remember it, so I never, ever looked at God with that deeper emotional attachment. And I’m having a hard time doing so now.
The other thing that happened, was someone was talking about God the Shepherd. And because I was thinking about how using the analogy of God as a Father is a terrible tool to introduce some people to God, so is God the Shepherd. It’s funny, the point of these analogies and parables were to make God relatable, to make hard to understand concepts easy by putting them in terms everyone could easily understand. But those terms are so outdated now that the parables need almost as much explaining as the actual religious concepts. I can’t go up to someone and say “God is a good Shepherd. He leads the nursing ewes to green pastures to feed.” “He leads the yous where? Why do they need to go to pastures? You know the plural of you is ya’ll, right? Not yous?”
So I’m thinking about this a lot the last week. If someone has a good, loving, earthly Father, there’s a good chance I’m not trying to introduce them to God. And if I am, it’s an easy analogy. “You know how awesome your dad is? This is even better!” “Awesome, let’s go to church!” But the people who really need it, who pop up from time to time and who I’m fortunate enough to talk to… sometimes you only have a quick minute to make an impression. And if I start talking about fathers or shepherds they start paying attention to some other shiny object.