By Audrey Stallsmith
Because we call God our Heavenly Father, we may automatically assume Him to be similar in character to our earthly one. C. S. Lewis wrote of George MacDonald that, “An almost perfect relationship with his father was the earthly root of all his wisdom. From his own father, he said, he first learned that Fatherhood must be at the core of the universe.”
Lewis may have envied that relationship, as he always had trouble communicating with his own domineering but somewhat obtuse papa. Because Lewis had prayed for his mother when she was sick and she had died anyway, he initially could have assumed God to be impossible to reach too.
Psychology tells us that there are few things which cause quite as much angst in children as unsuccessful attempts to impress a father—except, perhaps, the absence of that father. Freud wrote “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” Therefore, children who don’t find their fathers to be loving and protective may feel insecure the rest of their lives.
I can testify, however, that even those of us with supportive earthly daddies often turn to trying to impress the rest of the world instead. But all of us aren’t setting our sights high enough. As Charles Gore reminds us in The Sermon on the Mount, “You are to look to nothing lower than the praise of God.”
Gore admits that “We must crave for ultimate satisfaction, recognition, approval.” That is part of being human, and not something we can escape. But, he adds, “we should seek it in the right place, that is, from God.”
I heard recently of a woman who had been bitter that she had never met her earthly father before she realized that she could make God her father instead. At first glance, trying to please a perfect being seems even more impossible than trying to please imperfect ones. But that perfect Being has a couple important attributes that lesser beings lack. He loves us no matter what we do, and He can see our past and future as well as our present.
Our acquaintances, who can’t actually view our whole time line in one comprehensive sweep, may not notice gradual improvements or declines. But God, as Gore points out, “views every institution (or person) not as it is, but as it is becoming. . .”
If we easily could be making giant steps forward, He won’t be impressed with baby or backward ones. But sometimes we have to struggle mightily for every inch of progress. God is aware of that even when our acquaintances aren’t. And, if we are changing in the right direction, He will be pleased with us.
As Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, “When a man who has been perverted from his youth and taught that cruelty is the right thing, does some tiny little kindness, or refrains from some cruelty he might have committed, and thereby, perhaps, risks being sneered at by his companions, he may, in God's eyes, be doing more than you and I would do if we gave up life itself for a friend.”
Lewis then turns about to warn that “some of us who seem quite nice people may, in fact, have made so little use of a good heredity and a good upbringing that we are really worse than those whom we regard as fiends.” In other words, we aren’t judged by our raw material but by what we did with it.
If you fear your raw material is too inadequate for God to make any use of you, think again. He obviously has a sense of humor, as he seems to delight in appointing the least likely persons to do his work.
To cite just a few examples: Gideon, who originally was hiding from the enemy, was chosen to lead an army against that enemy. Moses, who had a speech impediment, was chosen to make the Israelites’ case to Pharaoh. Saul, who was vigorously persecuting the early Christian church, was chosen to unite it.
God needs, not people who are independent and brilliant, but those willing to let Him work through them. The former rely too much on their own talents. The latter know they are going to need help—and lots of it! Gideon, who didn’t have the courage to lead an army on his own, kept anxiously checking in with God to make sure they still were on the same wavelength.
That was the right thing to do. Out of love, our earthly fathers work hard to make us independent of them, because they know we eventually will have to do without them—at least for a while. The same isn’t true of our Heavenly Father, who always is and will be with us.
What impresses Him is not our strength or success, but our willingness to lean on Him. By becoming clingy in our relationship to God, Who is large enough to support the weight of our dependence without buckling under it, we can become less clingy in our other relationships.
As He promises us in Isaiah 46:3-4 “I have created you and cared for you since you were born. I will be your God through all your lifetime, yes, even when your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and be your Savior.”