This entry for The Baptist Review is going to be different than most. However, I hope it is a practice we adopt for future posts. We all have a story to tell. More importantly as Christians we all have a story to tell of how in some way God has changed us or comforted us. I believe these are the stories the world needs to hear. I would like to share with you my story of growing up without a father and how knowing God as my father was crucial for my spiritual formation.
Fatherless. I was fatherless. Before I knew what this word meant I was already familiar with it. I grew up in a small town and was raised by my mother with the help of my grandmother and the rest of my family. You know the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”? Well, that was us. If I am honest with you, I really did not know how much I desired a father until much later in my life. I was surrounded with people who cared for me and loved me. My mom worked tirelessly to provide for my brother and I. I did not know until I was an adult how much she truly gave up to give us the life we had. I remember one Christmas my mom bought my brother and I the very first playstation and some race car bath soap. I still remember the smell of the soap a the many arguments my brother and I got into about who’s turn it was to play the playstation. She did not show it but she had to sell most of her jewelry that Christmas to afford it. I tell you these things because I want to recognize my mother who taught me what it meant to be selfless for those you love and for all that she did to show me she loved me.
Growing up I played little league baseball. I loved the game. However, it was not long before I noticed something was missing on the bleachers. I did not have a dad there cheering me on to first base. However, my mother was plenty loud enough to make up for the both of them. I think this was the first time in my life I realized I was fatherless. Or at least this is the only moment I can remember. From that moment on this was not something I felt. It was who I was.
Because this is a blog post I will not go into much detail. However, I do want to express to you how thankful I am and was for my mother.
In middle School and High School the sadness I felt as a child turned into pride. “I will do this without him”, I told myself. I gave it every effort I had to accomplish great things on my own. Fortunately, I was raised in a God loving family who took me to church where I heard about God and Jesus. I became a Christian at a young age and committed my life to vocational ministry in high school. I spent my time learning about who God was and how that affected my life. Eventually I began to pick up reading books on theology and commentaries that step by step walked me through the scripture. However, as much as I yearned to know God I never knew him as my father.
In college I met a friend who prayed like this, “Father it has been a very long day. I’m exhausted. I really need to talk to you.” I remember thinking how strange this was. Did he not know he was talking to a king? I grew up hearing people talk about “father God” But never like this. At least not that I could recall at the time. Maybe the thought of God being father was something I chose not to know. It was at this point that I began learning about God as my father. For years after that moment walls began coming down in that I built up in my life. Walls that protected me from anything or anyone being “father”. Finally, after longing for so long I had a father. A good, good father.
When we embrace God as our father, we are finally free to discover who we really are.
This experience was crucial for my spiritual formation. Without it I do not feel I would have fully experienced how much God truly cares for me. I would have always viewed him as my creator who has given me a set of rules. Moreover, I would still be that little boy running to first base or the angry middle schooler driven to success out of pride to prove something to his dad. Fatherless is no longer who I am. It is who I was. Now I am a son.
Maybe you are reading this and you can relate. Unfortunately, there are many kids and adults who struggle as I have. Because of this I believe it is essential that we begin to talk more frequently about God as father. There will always be a boy like me who needs to hear it.