Speaking of God -- Scott Dickison
In this column last month for Mothers' Day, Julie offered a prayer that both celebrated mothers and also gave voice to the complications that for many are simply a part of that holiday. Motherhood can take on many different meanings, and at church we try to make space for as many of these nuances as possible, knowing that God can hold these things much better than we ever could.
The same can be said of fatherhood. For many, fatherhood stirs memories of Saturday morning pancakes, fishing trips and firm handshakes. For others, it highlights a lack of these things, or a deep longing for them. In the church we count each of these experiences as valid, and affirm that they can each open possibilities for us to reflect and grow in our faith.
The church has a long history of knowing God as Father and we still do, even as we use a variety of other language to highlight different characteristics and experiences of God. And the key to this entire conversation is to on the one hand understand that God is much too big for us ever to describe completely, so any language we use can only ever hope to simply point us in the right direction, and on the other hand celebrate the great Christian hope that God came down to earth to live among us, and so the best way to speak of God is out of our own earthly, fleshy experience. Maybe you know God best in your life as loving Father, or perhaps you know God more as loving Mother, or any number of other relationships. The important thing is that you know God and know God is loving.
I count myself as fortunate enough to have known and experienced God's love in both fatherly and motherly ways, but it's the fatherly love I've experienced that lately I’ve been thinking about most.
As a child it meant seemingly unlimited power and the ability to do and make almost anything. As a youth (on my better days) it meant wisdom and patience. As a young adult witnessing unexpected and undesired career changes, it meant hope and resolve. And running through each of these periods was an understanding of God's great and enduring fatherly strength.
Over these last years and months, as I've witnessed my father's walk with cancer, God as Father still bears witness to this same strength, but in new ways. These days, I see the ways God's fatherly strength can, in an almost miraculous way, be known through vulnerability, and even pain. And as with the cross, the vulnerability and pain I see in my dad is difficult for me to grasp.
I’ll take all of these experiences with me as I enter into fatherhood myself, and I expect some new insights on Fatherly love will be added to the mix as well. And this is the great power of language, if we’ll allow: it grows with us through our experiences and relationships, always adding depth, always opening up new ways of seeing even that which is closest to us, that we’ve known all along. Even our Father, even our father.