By the time I was ten, I had had three earthly fathers.
The first father was the absent one, my biological father. My parents divorced in a storm of anger and legal drama when I was just a few months old, and my mom and I lived with her parents for the next several years. Father Number One left the country he despised for a new life on a new continent, where he stayed.
The second father was the abusive one, my stepfather. My mother had impulsively married one of her more promising boyfriends, and while it seemed like a good idea at the time, his physical abuse started within weeks and escalated rapidly until one final beating which put her in the hospital just before Christmas. She and I fled in secret to another state a thousand miles away and Father Number Two never found us.
The third father … but I’ll save him for later. Please stick around for that.
When I became a Christian as an adult, I discovered that many people, even Christians, who’d had absent or abusive fathers early in life had trouble seeing God as a benevolent, loving Father. It was easier for them to see God as someone distant or frightening, someone they could never hope to please, someone who was constantly judging them and finding them guilty or inadequate, or someone who professed to love them but did it conditionally and with many strings attached.
They had learned from imperfect, human men that fathers (or those who stood in the place of fathers) were often not trustworthy, loving, or safe.continue reading