The Father Heart of God

ImageThe topic of the Father heart of God has been explored many times, but I would like to share a couple insights that have been helpful for me to understand how to better understand the Father heart of God and how much that understanding changes your life. Some of these concepts and illustrations come from John Townsend’s book Hiding from Love which I can highly recommend to someone wanting to explore the psychological dimension in this discussion.
Imagine a little girl who lived with her father in a cabin by the woods (we will assume no mother here for simplicity’s sake). One day when she is around 5 years old some men break into her house and her father tells her to run into the woods and hide. Luckily, she had been taught wilderness survival skills and somehow she survives in the woods. She doesn’t know what happened to her father but she learns to live on her own. Her memories of her father are dim, but the memories of the men breaking into her house remain firmly implanted. Whenever she hears people coming into the woods she runs and hides as her father told her to do. The father has been unable to search for his daughter because the men were actually soldiers taking over the country. He had become a refugee and nine years later he is finally able to make his way back to find his daughter. He rouses a search party and they spread out to look for her in the woods. They are calling her by her name, Rose. However, Rose is running from them as if they were the enemy soldiers because running is all that she has known for so long. One man among the search crew used to be the mailman and would always bring Rose a chocolate when she was younger. He found some signs of possible habitation and decided to just sit and wait. Rose saw him and because he was sitting still she crept close enough to recognize his face. Over the course of a couple hours he was able to coax her out of the woods, explain what had happened with the enemy army invading, and return her to her father. While the reunion was joyful, Rose had years of unlearning habits of fear. Loud noises startled her, she had difficulty making friends, and even hugging her father proved to be a challenge. While this example is extreme, it has many relevant parallels to our experience. Mainly, we have all experienced a broken world and learned to react according to self-preservation and defensiveness. We build walls to defend in places where we were hurt or betrayed. The problem with learning these habits and judgments of people is that we then project them onto our perfect heavenly Father. We learn habits of the heart that transfer into our relationship with God and others. We might assume that someone is insulting us when they are not because we were insulted in the past, we might not trust God to come through in hard times because our parents or friends were not there for us in a difficult situation, we might strive to fulfill our need for approval because we didn’t feel like we measured up to our parents standards. Whatever it may be, we have all believed lies (directly from the enemy) because of our experiences and we all must learn to get past those lies in order to move forward in those areas of our lives.
Ultimately, the Father heart of God loves us unconditionally, wants and knows what is best for us (whether we think it is best or not), and has the ability to make what is best for us happen to and in and through us. In one of these categories (or all of these categories) we do not trust Him as fully as we should. This affects every aspect of our life, especially our identities. Our identity can only be truly rooted in God and when we misunderstand God we cannot understand ourselves.
In the story of the prodigal son we see that the son did not trust that his father loved him unconditionally, knew and wanted what was best for him, and had the ability to make what was best for him happen. He instead decides to take his life into his own hands and attempt to make it one his own. It is interesting to note here that he had to start by taking the inheritance from his Father or else he never could have begun. Our inheritance from God is the Image of God on our lives and every good thing in our lives (including our existence) and often we find ourselves squandering those things through our doubt or distrust of God’s heart. When the prodigal son gets to the end of his licentious living and has reached rock bottom he remembers that his Father was kind to his servants. I think it is interesting to see that he does not remember all of the love his Father had shown him. I believe living out his sin and experiencing human brokenness had brought him to a further distorted understanding of his Father. He most definitely did not believe that his Father loved him enough to welcome him back not just as a servant but as an exalted son. The prodigal son did not do anything of worth to the Father, he just arrived on his Father’s property. He didn’t even get to the house before his Father swept him into His arms of love. This is the Father heart of God and, yet, when Jesus told this story people were amazed by the counter-cultural love displayed by the Father. One could imagine a nearby scribe snickering in disbelief saying something like, “pssshhhh that would never happen.”
We are all broken in our ability to receive the love of the Father. We all believe lies about ourselves, God, and others that are meant precisely to keep us from living in love.
I have been walking on a journey with God where I am journaling about particularly painful experiences in my past and asking God to minister to me in the places where I might of believed lies. It has been so good. I would recommend more than any other thing that anyone reading this would just take some time to journal with God. It doesn’t have to be as directed as my journaling project has been, but if you show up and pour out your heart to God through journaling and ask him to minster to you about those things I can guarantee that your heart will be met and changed by the Holy Spirit. God wants to communicate His Father heart of love to you. Because of our broken earthly fathers and mothers and relations we tend to push Him away. Please accept the Father’s embrace. There is nothing standing between you and God except your misconceptions about Him and yourself. Turn to Him and He will run to you.

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