Yesterday, the first Sunday in Advent, I felt especially thankful to have part of our family sitting with us in church. As the worship team began to strum our next song and the lyrics went up on the screen, people started to sing and our little Lucy's eyes brightened up immediately. "We sing that song at our church!" she proclaimed as she started swaying and singing along.
You're a Good, Good Father.
It's who you are, It's who you are, It's who you are
And I'm loved by you.
It's who I am, It's who I am, It's who I am.
Her delight and my history collided in that moment and I felt the impact of God's work in my life.
My dad was a good enough man but he was not a great father to me. It was a turning point in my healing to understand his humanity, his history. And because of him I absolutely LOVED the idea of God as Father...the only perfect Father. I have come to keep my eyes open for fathers who represent God well as dads to their children. I look around and I see guys who act lovingly toward their children, who teach carefully, who are patient and kind, who come home every night, who are available, good listeners, who accept their kids for who they are, who encourage and build them.
One father made a deep impact on me while in China. Brian and I along with Joel and Rachel were having a little picnic during one of our outings. Our grandchildren, two-year-old Lucy and one-year-old Charles, were hungry, tired and things seemed a bit stressed. At one point, Lucy reached down and found her hand full of dirt. Her eyes lit up and I saw her face brighten as she lifted her hand and proceeded to throw that fist-full straight at me. I don't think there was any malice in the act. She just decided that it was a good idea, something fun.
Now stop and think to yourself. What would most of us do? Our voices might rise a bit and the shaming words would just pop out so easily, "Lucy, you know better than that! We don't throw dirt! Say I'm sorry to Grandma!!"
But that is not what happened. Her daddy picked her up and explained to her that throwing dirt was not a good idea; her decision was a poor choice, a mistake, but it's OK to make mistakes, we just need to make them right. He held her close. He talked quietly. He told her he loved her. He waited for her. He told her again, "It's OK to make mistakes. We love you. But you need to make it right by saying I'm sorry to Grandma."
I could see her little eyes working, stubbornness hovering just an inch above all that love. Then, when the time seemed right, she decided, yes, "I'm sorry Grandma."
Relieved, I responded, "I forgive you, Lucy, Grandma loves you!" followed by a big hug and a kiss. All was forgiven. I never heard it brought up again. She had made it right and learned a few good lessons in the process.
That is what came to my mind as Lucy delighted in the recognition of You're a Good Good Father.
As the Advent season starts I can't help but go back to this song and breathe in the truth of the goodness of God. Long before Jesus was born, God had the plan to send a Savior to Israel. In Isaiah he wrote: A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him - the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD - and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
For this season we, of the Christian faith, will focus on Jesus. We will remember how a baby came to earth to save us from our sins. We will recall the story of his birth, his amazing life, death and resurrection as a triumph over sin and death. We'll hear it over and over in Christmas readings and carols, church services and in cards that have already started arriving.
But today I savor our good, good Father who had a plan and carried out his promise. He does not shame or call us to task for our humanity. He loves. He is patient. He made a way for Jesus to make it right. Our self-will hovers above and within us but he patiently waits for his goodness to be recognized and embraced, so that roots can form and a shoot of faith can grow up in our hearts. Wisdom and understanding form a deep-inside-knowing that we are loved and lovable.