About Dad: How God Fathers Me

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I've been thinking about my dad this week. Trying to remember what I know of him that I haven't been told. Wondering what relationship do I have with him, really?

I've always been pretty independent. As a child, I had my own ideas about life. My own decided way of doing things. It was usually the hard way, my dad would say.

But I remember needing him. He was the only one who could take out the splinters I got in my fingers and toes. "Pop's Splinter Shop," he called it, teasing me every time that he was gonna charge me a nickel I didn't have for his services. As if I would have paid him for doing something he was supposed to do. I knew he was joking, but part of me always wondered...

When I got older, Dad tried teaching me to let my teenage emotions roll, "like water off a duck's back." It never really worked with me. I was determined to have my emotions. I learned instead to control them when needed, then process and deal later. I'm a venter, a rambler, and once I get stuff out, I don't feel it anymore.

But I was talking about Dad.


In college, I called Dad a lot. So much so that Mom thought I just didn't care about her. I just didn't have much to say to anyone in college. There was so much going on internally. Most of the time I already knew what I needed to do to fix the thing I was calling about. I just needed Dad to validate my decisions.

I have realized in recent years that I was a pretty decent manipulator. I could talk Dad into just about anything - or he simply let me have my head, figuring he couldn't tell me what to do. He and Mom tell me they never really could.

Relating to my dad on any sort of emotional level is difficult. My dad is so pragmatic. It's the Langner in him. I know it, because I have the same pragmatism. I learned it from my grandma, his mom. There are places he reserves for Mom, feelings he just can't find a place for, things he just doesn't feel at all.

Just before he walked me down the aisle at my wedding, he leaned in and offered, "this is your last chance to back out." It wasn't what I wanted to hear. But it was definitely what Dad had to say. He wouldn't have been Dad otherwise and that would have been weird.

When I was in labor with Piper, Dad was cracking jokes that I wanted to hear, but you can NOT laugh in labor. Ask anyone who has done it. You need those laugh-muscles to end the pain. I asked him afterward what he'd been feeling. He said he was fine. He'd done it eight times with my mom. I found out from my mom recently that he loves babies.

I look at pictures of Dad and me when I was a baby. I see things in his eyes, in his smile that I don't recognize. Things that Mom said she saw again after Pete called to ask permission to date me, court me, marry me. She said he was walking around the house, happy.

I had a hard time picturing it.


Bonnie at Faith Barista wrote yesterday of "Looking for My Real Father." She shared excerpts from a book she has been reading about how children tend to view God through the lens of what they have known from their parents, from their dad.

I never call God Father. Not in relation to myself anyway. Jesus is God's Son, God is Jesus' Father. I simply don't consider the fact that I figure into that equation.

But I do, whether I realize it or not.

For years, I lived believing God loved me on a purely intellectual level. My response to this love was duty, and the sense that if I performed well, He would give me what I wanted. It was a rather detailed system I had worked out to manipulate the God of the universe into being what I thought He should be.

It wasn't that coherent. But it was how I lived.

God shattered my illusions with the reality of His deep, consuming love, love that wouldn't let me live in my misunderstanding of Him, love that required me to accept Him on His terms, the Truth of Him, the all of Him that spoke out of the whirlwind to Job and asked him if he really knew who God was, the God who came to Job as a man to show him the man wasn't enough to comprehend God's ways.

I can't yet call this God Abba.


When I go home, I know my dad is happy to see me. He holds my children, asks for hugs once in a while, and his eyes smile when he looks at me. If I dare to look into them, I see a question that is never asked, a little bit of awe, a deep affection that is never voiced.

I see my "Daddy."

But I'm grown up now. I'm not supposed to need a Daddy when I'm grown up.

And I'm good at being grown up. Most of the time anyway.

But sometimes when I cry, I miss knowing that things were okay because Daddy said they were okay. Because he was home or he was at work and things were normal and under control and Mom could call him and make things better during the day and he could help when he was home at night.

Suddenly, I realize that this is what I can't release when I think about God. This childlike understanding and trust of His sovereignty. The hope beneath my tears that everything is okay because He is God and He is at work and I can call Him and He will come for my heart.

He'll dig my splinters out free of charge, and put a band-aid on it to help me feel better. He'll whisper His words to me when I wished for something else. And because they come from Him, they will come to mean more to me than I could have known when He said them.


I pulled Dad out onto the dance floor with me at my wedding. Dad doesn't dance. I knew he felt awkward. But he came with me and went around a few times and smiled and cracked a few jokes I don't remember, in his way.

He offered me himself with that gracious acquiescence to my heart.

This is why grace means so much to me.


God loves me and gives to me and fills me with good things in spite of me, in spite of my frequent, childish misunderstanding of His Person.

This is why Jesus' life and death and resurrection is so vitally important. His condescension of God into flesh was driven by an incredible love, a deep Father-affection revealed in the setting aside of His God-glory to become like me, to dance with me where I am. This is grace, His Father-waiting and teaching and helping me to comprehend what I will never fully know until I meet Him face to face - when I will see Him as He is.

I get only glimpses of my dad that I can know as an adult. As a grown-up, I am learning to relate to him on an adult level. But my child-heart still thinks of him as "Daddy." I wonder if I will ever grow up.

With God it is backward. The growing-up means becoming more childlike, becoming like Jesus, the Son of Man who deeply trusted His Abba, Father.
"Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."

- Mark 14:36
Greater love...


I watch Pete forming a relationship with Piper now, listen to her "Daddy!", laugh at the giggles and excitement only he can produce from her, and I wonder what questions she will have about him someday. I wonder how she will be disappointed by him. I wonder what she will learn of God through her relationship with him.

I hope she will know how much they love her.


This post also linked at Holy Experience for Walk With Him Wednesday.

(Image © Informal Moments Photography)


Bina said...

I have tears in my eyes and one that is tracking down my cheeck.

From a girl who is at a stand-still with her earthly father while learning to lean on and trust her eternal One...let me say:

Great post!


Bonnie Gray said...

"For years, I lived believing God loved me on a purely intellectual level. My response to this love was duty.."

The pieces to the puzzle slide in ever so slowly, but surely. I relate to this, Kelly.

And I also relate to this --
"But sometimes when I cry, I miss knowing that things were okay because Daddy said they were okay. "

I never had an earthly dad, but this is the Abba Dad I want to experience and know.

This is a beautiful post, sharing yourself in reminiscing, as well as reflection for today.

Maureen said...

John O'Donohue wrote a lovely blessing called "For a Father"; the first stanza reads:

"The longer we live,
"The more of your presence
"We find, laid down,
"Weave upon weave
"Within our lives. . . ."

That can be true for both father and Father.

S. Etole said...

sometimes we just need to remember, "I love you, too ..." because He first loved

HisFireFly said...

Stunning words to touch all of our hearts!

Both of your Daddys would be proud.

@bibledude said...

This is one of the best 'God is our Daddy' perspectives that I think that I've ever seen! Wow... thank you for sharing your heart!

Sarah said...

Hi Kelly! I saw your greeting via Erin's blog! :) Hope you're doing well! I adore this post...and the idea of a father's/Father's love...such a beautiful thing!

Lyla Lindquist said...

Perplexing, I find it, that our growing up as people means less dependence on our fathers (and mothers). My job raising my boys is to get them ready to shove out of the nest (not that it should sound like I'm so eager...).

Yet our growing up in Him, in likeness to Him, is to become more attached, more dependent, more desperate and needy. (Or perhaps at least more aware of it, for I don't believe I could need Him any more than I do today -- I'll just know the need more.)

How He uses our parents - and our parenting - to work this about in us is so ridiculously paradoxical I doubt I'll ever quite get it.

Marcus Goodyear said...

As I read this, I couldn't help but think about my own daughter who is 8.

Part of me always wants her to feel comfortable calling me Daddy--but I know she will grow up, get married, hear some snarky comment from me as we walk down the aisle, have kids, and create a life of her own.

That's the way it is supposed to be. But it is a hard thing to imagine.

kirsten michelle said...

This journey sounds so like my own: believing God's love was an intellectual one and one which never really penetrated my heart. And it continues to penetrate, to break down old walls.

Blessings to you as you journey deeper into this Abba-love.

Melissa, Multi-Tasking Mama said...

What a beautiful post! I just reconciled with my father last year after 13 years of not speaking and my earthly father absolutely impacted my perspective of God (for a long time) Thankfully, God got through to me and then I could offer forgiveness and reconciliation to my earthly father.

deb said...

Kelly, first I want to thank you for your grace, and your beautiful words to me. I didn't mean to upset, just to be honest and not wrap my words around and around for a change. Life is about the whole circle. I don't question it. Although I did of course. And of course , there were and are other things. As with you, we have our stories.
Mine is mine for a purpose , and I pray that in my abundance and gratitude now, I can discern what and where it is.

and this post , of course resonates with me. Oddly, I never looked for God to replace my father. Nor did I picture Him as my cruel and controlling stepfather.
Perhaps that was what has lead me through , that I had comfortable perceptions , that are always becoming more beautiful.

Corinne said...

The whole Father and Daughter thing always brings me to tears. There's so much to the relationships, all of them.
I need time to process this one ;) Lovely & thought provoking, as always!

Denise said...

i love to hear my girls call on their daddy. depend on him, know that his love is unconditional, that he is faithful, trustworthy, wanting them, hoping for them, here.

and i long for them to have greater confidence in their Father God because their earth daddy gave them a good taste of him.

i had 7 dads growing up. my birth father didn't claim. and all the others left.

i became a christian because God offered himself as a "father who would never leave me or forsake me" told me that "nothing would seperate me from his love." but for years i avoided God as father. i looked,prayed only to the Jesus in God. but over the years that has changed, and God and i have a beautiful Father daughter relationship. oh the daddy things he whispers in my ear! :-)
it is so good to be HIS.

Kathleen said...

Abba's child. Papa dear. Snuggling. Yes.

Christy, the Notable Blogger said...

You are blessed to have a father, and more blessed to have The Father. I enjoyed your post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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