“Abba, Father!”. Three times this phrasing is found in Scripture. Abba is the Hebrew word for father. Each time I read it, I feel the weight of the intimacy it carries.
Our Lord is our Abba, Father, and He desires an intimate relationship with us. He knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb. He knows our thoughts, He understands our hearts, He delights in every detail of our lives. One of the ways He demonstrates His unconditional love for us is through our earthly fathers.
As Father’s Day approaches, I have been reflecting on all the father figures in my life – my birth father, adopted father, spiritual fathers, and my Heavenly Father. I have indeed been blessed with multiple “fathers” in my life. Each, while extraordinarily different, have played a significant role. Dads often get lumped into categories of being the provider & disciplinarian, while mother’s get most of the “nurturing” credit. And while this may be categorically true, make no mistake, dads play a huge role in nurturing our relationship with the Lord.
Our good God has given fathers the responsibility of providing so that we might look to Him and see that He is a good Father who provides for our every need. Our good God has given fathers the responsibility of disciplining so that we might learn how to obey Him and practice submission. It is a good gift! Hopefully, by the time we stand before our Maker, we will have learned something of what it means to submit to King Jesus.
God also uses fathers as one of the first disciplers to His children. Fathers teach and train us in the way we should go, and can be an example of how we walk out our faith. In this sinful broken world, there are many ways these roles get distorted, abused, and mishandled. In my own broken and imperfect relationships with my fathers, I have seen how God has provided spiritual fathers to walk alongside me in this life to point me toward Jesus. I look at Paul, one of the most influential spiritual fathers in church history. He spiritually parented Timothy, Philemon, and countless others. And God has used the “Pauls” in my life to encourage, challenge, discipline, care for, teach, model Christ-like behavior, and pray for me.
As a mother, I can be particularly biased about the role physical and spiritual mothers play. But in God’s grace, I have also learned to appreciate the eternal value and significance of the role of physical and spiritual fathers.
Reflect with me for a moment: Have you experienced the kind of spiritual parenting that Timothy and Philemon had from Paul? Do you have someone in your life right now that you are spiritually parenting? Might we encourage you to join a discipleship group this fall through Hillside, and continue investing in and developing these types of relationships. Be on the lookout for more information later this summer!
Thank you, Dads of Hillside, for the role you have played in nourishing and developing Jesus learners. Happy Father’s Day!