God is Dad.
by Jake Firestine
In our present time we hear much about the divisive issues. Some that come to mind are abortion, same-sex “marriage”, separation of church and state, and contraception. These issues are certainly of supreme importance, and I do not wish to trivialize them; however, I would like to shift the focus from society to the individual person. Amid all of the division in the world, there likewise lies a division in the heart of each person. That is to say that we all are experiencing an internal conflict. On the one hand, we all desire true and lasting peace, love, and joy. On the other, we lose hope so easily and throw in the towel because we doubt the existence of true love. As Christians we believe in a God who is truly Love itself. Therefore, all that He does is out of the greatest good for us because He does it with the most pure, uncorrupted love. As all Christians know, this idea is much more difficult to live out in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Let’s examine this a tad more, shall we?
So, from where does this inner division stem? Let us look no further than the Garden of Eden. We all know what happened. Eve was tempted. Adam failed to protect his beloved. Thus, sin entered the world. I want to point out one thing that the serpent says that captures the essence of this inner division. In Genesis Chapter 3, the serpent asks Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’?” The serpent is lying about what God actually said. It was only one tree from which Adam and Eve could not eat. Thus, the serpent is painting a picture of God that is contrary to His true nature. In this case, God is being portrayed as unreasonable and even ridiculous. Folks, this is the same lie that we humans have been telling ourselves ever since that fateful day in the garden. We fail continuously to know God in His fullness because we choose to believe the same lie that our parents did. This continues to open the already gaping wound in our hearts left by original sin. The wound is hidden, and it prefers to remain that way. When that wound is in danger of being exposed we hear a voice tell us, “Come on, don’t be silly. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s not like God will strike you down dead if you try to change.” Sound familiar? (see Genesis 3: 4).
Thus, our hearts need mending, and the only one who can mend them is God. However, if God is the “rule-giver” or the “almighty smiter” this mending will not happen. Maybe we don’t believe the two aforementioned extreme examples. Perhaps, we believe a more subtle lie. It may be something like our version of God is he who sometimes gives us what we want and other times enjoys afflicts us and enjoys watching us squirm or suffer. I have struggled with this particular view throughout my life. Now, most people grow up hearing about God as their “Loving Father”, and so this idea is nothing novel. But “knowing” and “believing” are not the same actions. We can know many truths on an intellectual level, but as we all know, believing these truths calls us to action. We must let these truths penetrate our very beings in order that we may personify those truths. This is easier said than done. It necessitates the pruning of the twisted, dead branches that gnarl around our hearts. In the book Interior Freedom by Rev. Jacques Phillippe (read it…now) states, “but we can only enter the new way of being through the destruction of many of our natural behaviors, a sort of death-agony.” By entering through the “narrow gate” (Matt. 7: 13) we are embarking on a journey to become “perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5: 48). This journey towards divinization is not instantaneous. Trudging through the sludge of original sin is painfully slow. Why, then, do we become so discouraged when we sin or when things don’t go the way that had hoped? It’s because we thought we knew God, and through those difficult moments, He is purifying our belief in Who He really is!
Now, let’s talk about atheism. I think that we have all met an atheist in our lives, and one trend among them that I have found is that they think that we believe in a god who is vengeful and anger. Another one is the image of God as a “magician in the sky”. That one makes me chuckle. Why do I bring this up? Well, because it is silly. Also, it is because many atheists have believed the lie. They don’t see God as a loving Father Who not only loves them, but Who actually likes them. They don’t see Him as the One who loved them into existence with the hope of them spending eternity with Him.
Now, the reasons for this faulty view of God are many. It might be because of school shootings, human trafficking, genocide, abortion, and such that lead them to conclude that God is anything but a “Loving Father”. Sadly, even many of our close friends, family members, and coworkers have heard the serpent’s lie and have conformed their lives to it. After all, if you sincerely believed that god were a child in the sky with a magnifying glass who delighted in setting us all on fire, then why continue believing in him?
So, what about you and me? Devout Christians don’t have this problem, do they? We have had our encounter with the Person of Jesus Christ, and thus, we know the Living God. Au contraire. We must never be so presumptuous to think that we know God in His fullness. It is very easy for those already following Christ to encounter hardship with surprise or confusion. We say, “God, I’m following your commandments, I’m praying a Rosary every day, and I attend Mass daily. I shouldn’t be feeling this pain.” My response would be, “Bro, what scriptures are you reading?” Jesus told us that we were going to be hated for His sake (Matthew 10:22). He also said to take up your cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). Follow Him where? To rolling fields of heather to do cartwheels and to catch butterflies? Nay! He was lead to His death! Thus, by choosing to become a disciple of Christ, He is going to take us through His Passion. We can look at this simple fact as a burden or as a privilege. It depends on which God we wish to follow. If we suffer from a lack of faith and hope, then we will most likely choose to follow the god that we have constructed out of our bad experiences. Or we might just throw out God entirely. Or we can choose the one, true God. This would require us to exercise our faith beyond our experiences. We have to trust that He is Who He says He is. We have to take Our Father’s Word for it, and His Son, Jesus is His Word. Our Father always stays true to His Word.
Jake Firestine is a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionary at IUPUI and St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. He was born and raised in Fort Wayne, IN. Before becoming a Catholic missionary, Jake worked as a high school Spanish teacher and completed his Master’s degree in Hispanic Linguistics from the University of Florida. He enjoys time with his family, being in nature, singing, and a comfortable pair of socks.