Father’s Day like Mother’s Day can evoke mixed feelings for many. We romanticize and create a vision of the perfect love of a father or mother but for many that experience doesn’t match.
In 2005 we got our first foster child, sort of by accident! We met her at a church camp.
A former teacher of hers had agreed to take her for a couple of weeks as they couldn’t find anyone to take her! - not to camp - but to take her at all!
She was an 11-year girl who had gotten in trouble and the truth was no one wanted her. So, this teacher had reluctantly agreed to take her for just a couple of weeks and had been booked for this camp so brought her along.
The first day we met her was unusual. She just down sat next to Kelly during one of the messages and then asked if she could put her head in Kelly’s lap and then fell fast asleep. We had not met yet! It felt sort of ominous!
That night and nights after that she would come to our cabin and share stories of living with her mean mom and brother and her mom’s periodic bad boyfriends or pretend dads.
Her mom had told her clearly that her father had been a one-night stand and she would never meet him.
One story she shared with us impacted me more than others- one of the temporary “dads”, or mom’s bad boyfriends as I called them, got mad at her for acting up- she was a strong personality and could get in trouble amazingly quickly.
To punish her he took her and a puppy she had been given a few weeks prior out to the desert. He put the puppy outside the car and drove back leaving the puppy to die in the desert--- as a punishment for her. Lots of stories like that.
So to make a long story short, at the end of that week at camp she asked- no begged us – to take her…and all my girls begged - like we were adopting a stray cat!
I said that was sort of impossible- there is a system and it didn’t work like that and we- we were not one of those families! We also lived 500 miles from where she was from but….
yep, we scrambled around the courts bent some rules and we took her shortly after that.
The first few weeks we had her she was like a wild animal. One of the first days she stayed with us she got upset and so,… climbed up on the roof! We had to make rules for her we had never had before with our own girls- like, you cannot open the car door and get out until the car stops!
She was probably the most difficult and feral with me. She would absolutely literally melt down fairly often with me- drama on a scale I had never seen anywhere-ever- even on TV!
One time we were in a store and I had told her ‘no’ to something she wanted and she just sat down on the floor of the store and started crying, loudly and really hard- I mean she was 12- my own kids never did that- even at 2 or 3- I just didn’t know what to do! I would just pray.
In all of this a weird and cool thing happened for me- I felt a love for her which I felt come from God through me – a love I had never known or heard of. One of the most profound experiences in my life actually.
God put in me what I feel is His love for us in a way that would make me slow down and become calm in ways I had never known.
My own girls got upset with her though and started to be mad at how she was treating me.
One day while she was freaking out and screaming and crying- about what I cannot even remember now- I suddenly said to her:
“Heather, I’m the good dad.” “I’m the good dad.” It was a moment. We both stopped and looked at each other.
I cannot remember exactly how we processed that – it was beyond words but I think we both felt and knew- this was God showing us that there is a Good Dad and I was representing that good dad for her and myself!
She settled down and then asked if she could sit in my lap- she was 12 but if you had met her you might have guessed she was 8 or 9 and little. She curled up in my lap and fell asleep.
This also felt like a moment and when she would do that it felt like it was a healing time for her spirit. I would usually work on my laptop while she slept! Funny now looking back.
If you ever want to hear more stories of our foster kids, I’ve got a ton. I felt like we got profound spiritual lessons or moments almost daily. We learned a lot about love and what it looks like.
We saw what it looks like up close when kids don’t think they are loved. In the years after that we took in lots of kids but also “big kids”- adults- so many of whom seemed to pine for, to long for, to want a father to love them- regardless of age.
This is an issue we see all the time and why my hope was to put this in the light today and ask the Holy Spirit to do an intervention!
I think our foster kids cases were extreme but in our talks with others, maybe half, maybe more, of the people we’ve counseled, or talked to, we see a gap in this understanding-
they wonder if their father loved or loves them.
Both earthly and heavenly and both affect and relate to one another.
Even from regular homes, and what we’d call ‘good families’- but maybe the Dad worked a lot, was gone a lot, was not very expressive, or was just somehow distant or not very affectionate.
My own father suffered a lot of his life due to some tragedies in his early childhood and then from his solution which was alcohol and the marine corp.
These things made him a bit mean and gruff and not very loving.
Years later my dad recovered and became a Christian. He was never very affectionate, but he found ways to show his love which make me, and others smile.
One of the ways he showed his love is he would see an article he thought might interest me and send it to me. In later years he would see an email or internet article, print it out and send it to me. Sometimes I would point out that he could just forward an email but…this was a special thing for him.
From the time I was about 20 till he died, my dad sent me -- pretty consistently-- a letter a day. A day- for some 30 years.
Sometimes the way people show love is different and we can miss it- like the book on love languages- that’s a good one if you have not read it- helpful if you want to show someone you love them in a way they will most understand.
Maybe we also struggle with seeing how God loves us either because the way is not easy to discern or because many have not had a great loving father image.
God’s love for us and our awareness and knowledge of that though is key.
It was an amazing transformation we witnessed with our foster kids when they started to see and feel and understand that we actually loved them- that we were doing this because we wanted to. That we would be their family in one form or another the rest of their lives- they changed.
When you are loved, and you know it – it changes you. And if you are missing it- that also shapes you and shows.
Many, no, most adults I know who are struggling- let’s just say ‘struggling’ and agree there are lots of ways and manifestations of struggle- I feel that if they knew- knew- experienced – that kind of knowing- the love of God, the love of the father- it would change their life.
This is one of our primary missions. For me and Kelly we have seen the power of love- especially God’s love through us or others who channel God’s love.
And if we can help people see this truth in the Bible – with their eyes and minds- it can enter their spirit. This is the key.
This truth must be a thing you get with your spirit – so it can come in a hug or a verse or a gift, a song, or a kind word- but the truth and power of love must reach our spirits to do the magic.
That kind of love- the love of the father, the love of God- when KNOWN in one’s inner being- that’s life changing and that’s our mission to bring and reveal and show some of.
In the gospel of Mark chapter 10 we read the story of what is called the rich young ruler. He wanted to know what he needed to do to have eternal life.
Jesus gave him an interesting challenge we don’t see elsewhere but was likely what he knew this one person needed to hear (good side lesson here for us! )
BUT as he looked at him, before the challenge or the response it says, Jesus looked at him and loved him: This touches me- he seemed to know him, to see him and in spite of what would happen next – that the guy would walk away- it says Jesus loved him.
In Ephesians 3 which we heard read today- Paul’s desire for them is so deep and as relevant today as it was then- Paul starts this passage as a prayer
that they would be rooted and grounded in love- lets read it again and I hope you will look this up and reread it and in different translations- I PRAY that we get it too -just like Paul prayed!
17 May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love,
18 That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];
19 [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses [f]mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!
Feels like we need a selah moment here for that!
For some it might help to have creative permission to think about God’s love in a new way.
We can pretty confidently say that God being a spirit and part of a mysterious triune God as Pastor Claudia tried to help us grasp- means God is not just a father/male entity. Its an image.
He is not as many of us imagine, a stern old white man with a beard!
In fact, it has helped me over the years to imagine God as an older black woman instead! Equally not accurate but the point is to help ourselves grasp this love.
and for you it might be a coach or an aunt or a pastor or someone you felt like they heard you, they saw you and they loved you – even though they knew you!
This is the love of God and if we can grasp this it can change us and how we love others.
The other day I was reflecting with Kelly and said – you know this one guy we like listening to- he’s so good- so intense- he just seems to have the right words- great preacher but
I asked her – who/what has actually changed our lives?
I mean we have been walking with God as a couple for almost 40 years now- who and what has most actually impacted/changed us-
and what’s funny is a couple of very simple people- but who truly knew their Bibles and lived love in their spirits – they changed us – good to see – really good to see
I realized that Truth- the big stuff with Capital T is seen and heard with our senses or our minds but our spirits is where the action is-
ever meet someone who talks true things, but something feels off or missing- its likely it has not penetrated their spirit. When the truth of God’s love touches our spirit, we change.
Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. I think sometimes we are too clever and try too hard.
The other day a sister shared with us how after having gone to a Bible school and studying the scriptures intellectually she realized that she had lost some of that personal connection to the Holy Spirit that she had had when she first was saved. She repented for that. It was really moving.
Knowledge is not the same as Truth.
1 Corinthians 8:1 warns us Knowledge [alone] makes [people self-righteously] arrogant, but love [that unselfishly seeks the best for others] builds up and encourages others to grow [in wisdom
John 4:18 reminds us “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear”
My prayer for us today is this- that we would know, experience kind of know, the love of God, God the father, (or mother or grandmother) and that we would receive it,
and then share it- this is fundamentally the way we will bring heaven to earth
and I would like to remind us that this is way Jesus taught us to pray- to a father, to our heavenly father and that His kingdom would come here on earth as in heaven – this is our mission and I believe it starts with a foundation in love.
1 John 4:19 tells us, “we love because he first loved us.”
Ok- please pray with me- I’ll pray and if you agree in your heart just say yes or amen to each point you agree with:
Father, thanks for being the Good dad-
maybe the one we never knew till you
Thanks for loving us in a way that changes us
as we receive it in our hearts or spirits
and changes us even more as we pass it on!
I pray now for anyone who is listening to this who is not sure they KNOW this love
But who want to
Father pour out a new level of and experience of your love to us this morning
and renew us with it
Show us people and ways we can share this love
so we can get refilled and be fountains, hoses, streams
and not buckets or jars of love which we worry about running out of
but rather faucets of love
In Jesus name – amen