Sunday, May 10, 2009

Holy Father

Electricity is running to my computer right now. Which is quite the luxury, considering that Ozark's campus has been without power for the past three days. On Friday morning we had a nasty little squall come upon us, which I got to observe from the massive windows of the dining hall until they escorted us into the "storm shelter" hallway to wait it out. Since then, my days have consisted mostly of just laying around on my bed and going to Hardee's in attempts to check my email and charge my phone. It really is a sad commentary on my life that I find it so hard to entertain myself with no power. If I were a character is a Laura Ingalls Wilder book, I don't know what I would do with myself.

It's funny how when we pray, we often don't even think about the words that are coming out of our mouths. We have little stock phrases that we've repeated so many times that they just flow naturally. I know that pretty much every time I pray before I meal, I say "Thank you for this food and help it to nourish our bodies." And I really am thankful for the food, and I do want it to be good for me, but I don't always really think about all of that while I pray. Another such phrase that a lot of people pray is the address "Holy Father." I've been thinking some lately about what this really means.

Interestingly, the actual phrase "Holy Father" is only found once in the Bible, in John 17:11, where Jesus uses it while praying for unity among his disciples. It's curious that that a phrase that it so scarcely used in Scripture would find its way to such a prominent place in the Christian vernacular. Maybe because it's so beautifully true. God is holy. God is our Father. And I imagine we don't always dwell on those thoughts too much when we pray.

I'm going to go a little backwards, because first I want to talk about God as our Father. I understand that a lot of people have trouble with this concept because they've had crappy dads who were lousy at doing their job as father. Such fathers are awfully poor reflections of the type of Father God is. Actually, I think even the best fathers on earth don't match up with God very well. He's the perfect Father. All the things that a father is supposed to be, he is and even more so. He loves us more than we can ever even grasp. He doesn't abandon us. He desires our good. And best of all, he has the power to give us things for our good.

Matthew 7:9-11 says, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

In general, a decent father desires to give things to his children, especially when it's something for that child's good. Bread and fish are good for a person, so a father likely won't deny such a request. He's happy to do it. He desires his children to come to him, and it brings him joy to be able to provide. I think God has this quality too, but magnified to an infinite amount. He truly wants us to come to him with our needs. He wants us to talk to him about our problems. He wants us to lean on him after we've found out that the world doesn't live up to what it promises.

Sometimes I feel like I must really be getting on God's nerves. I mean, he's a pretty busy guy, I'm sure. And every day I pray and make requests and maybe complain a little bit. He must get aggravated by me. My voice must be like an annoying hum that distracts him from everything else he has going on. But the beauty of things is that this isn't how it is. I don't annoy God. He welcomes me and listens attentively to me. It may be that nobody else cares what I have to say, but he does. You've probably heard a little kid try telling a story, and it seems like it goes on and on and doesn't really go anywhere or have any point, and it typically ends with a climax like, "And then I ate a peanut butter sandwich for lunch." It's hard for most people to appreciate such a story. But for the child's father, listening to that story is worth the time. And that's maybe how God feels about our prayers.

We feel like we encroach on God with our requests. We think, "I have no right to ask this; I'm sure he won't answer." But he tells us to ask! Do we really think God sits up there and says, "No, I don't feel like giving you wisdom. I won't give you boldness to evangelize. I don't want to help you know me better. I have no desire to mend your broken heart."?! Of course God wants to give us these things. He might not give us red Corvettes or fancy beach homes or a promotion at work, just like a father won't always give his kid all the crap he wants. But God does give us what we need, and he's glad to do so.

So God is our Father. But God is also holy. It's interesting to think about how these two aspects play out. God cares for us deeply and wants us to come to him. But he's also set apart. He's other than us. Sometimes we act like God isn't our Father and that we're unable to come to him. But at other times, we act like he's not holy. We treat him like he's our little "buddy," just like any of our other friends. God's got our back, and we don't really have to treat him with any respect or reverence, because he's our bro.

I don't think this is really the right way to approach things. The truth is that we don't deserve to come to God. He is so holy and righteous and pure, and we're so messed up and broken and sinful. He's beyond us. But that's the most incredible thing. Through Christ's sacrifice, we are able to approach God. The veil of the temple has been torn, and we can "approach the throne of grace with confidence" (Heb. 4:16). We can do this confidently, but I don't think we should do it too casually. God is our Father, but he's a Father that deserves respect. It's difficult for me to understand how God's holiness and his fatherhood coexist. But that's the awesome thing about God--he brings together such awesome characteristics and blends them into a perfect whole.

Yesterday was Mother's Day. I don't know that many mothers read this, but if any of you are out this, I hope you had a fantastic day, because you're incredible. And I hope all the rest of you called your mom and told her how great she is and that you love her. Don't take her for granted.

Someone needs to bring ska back.

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