What do yoga pants, God and our earthly dads have in common? Give up? Well, they were all part of our discussion in Sunday School class yesterday morning.
The topic was "obedience" in the context of chasing after the heart of God. What part does obedience play if we desire to know God and to follow him? Do we trust Him? When we think of God do we remember our relationship with our dad? How do we hear from God? What would he prefer: obedience to the rule or obedience with an ear tuned to his heart?
Sitting in front of me during our church service I saw Scott smile at and gently touch the shoulder of his son. Josh immediately moved closer and snuggled in right under his dad's outstretched arm which closed carefully around him. With such warmth and trust, I can imagine that if Scott would ask something of his son, Josh might be more willing to obey because he feels and trusts his dad's love.
Often people connect how they feel about their dad to how they feel about God. If dad was distant, God feels distant. If dad was angry, God feels angry. If dad was kind, God feels kind. Do you connect the two?
When I was in college I was a part of a group called Lutheran Youth Encounter, an evangelistic team approach to ministry. Every Monday night we gathered for Prayer and Praise. I don't remember much of what we did at those meetings so many years ago, but I do remember one evening very clearly. Our leader came in with a little paperback book called, The Jesus Person Pocket Promise Book. This was back in the seventies!! Young Christians were called Jesus People. :) He passed the book around the circle and asked each of us to open it and randomly place our finger on a verse. That would be God's promise for us that night.
My finger landed on Promise number 718: When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. Psalm 27:10. The NLT says, Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close. That night at Waldorf College sitting there with a group of young people just starting our lives as a witness for Christ, I truly felt this was a word for me from God. My dad left us when I was young and then died when I was twelve. Just heading off to college, trying to figure out who I was, this was a significant piece of me that hurt greatly but I didn't quite know what to make of it.
This verse told me that my earthly dad was NOT my heavenly Father. His mistakes/sins were not my God's. God was able to be trusted, was worthy of respect and would never leave. Only He could be my perfect Father and because of that I wanted him even more.
It would be many years until I untangled the emotion surrounding my dad. But that one night I got a promise from God that he would hold me close. Later I found God's pledge to Joshua as he was about to take the Israelites into the promised land. "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." I took this as my very own comforting verse, enabling a strong faith even when feelings wavered.
When I think of Father God, I am reminded of what I saw when Josh snuggled next to his dad. Close to his heart I am cherished, loved, and known. This is the kind of Father I want to listen and respond to. It's in that kind of relationship that obedience even possible.