November 4, 2013

Fathers: Mirrors & Blueprints

Father-Wound (Father-Hunger): An ongoing emotional, social, or spiritual deficit that is ordinarily met in a healthy relationship with your dad. ~Darrin Patrick
We were sitting at the food court eating Chick-Fil-A in the mall when that conversation took place. We hadn't know each other more than a few months and headed down two rather different paths: She was engaged and I was (still am) very single. But the topic that came up was like a punch to my face, because I just wasn't expecting it… in a smelly, greasy food court none-the-less… with a person I hadn't actually know for very long.

Our dads. That quickly became the focus of this dialogue. She told me her story, and I told her mine, really quite shocked at how similar they were… and that she was really the first person I had told about those bits of my life. I guess my gut thought was I had nothing to loose in sharing with her. After all, she basically poured out her heart to me, including the ugly part, and to not do the same seemed dishonoring of the trust we were building rapidly. This was one of those moments where you come away knowing that it was orchestrated by God. And since then the subject of fatherhood and dad's has been gnawing away at me, like an itch that won't go away.

Father hunger plagues seemingly all (some more than others), both the young and old, who fill our church's pews and community groups. The most extreme cases are those who grew up in homes where dad is linked to cruel abuse. Some of us though had dads who provided for us but were not emotional, mentally, or spiritual invested or present in our lives. Others had parents who divorced or dad's who didn't love our mothers well, and so now we're really confused and (honestly) fearful about marriage ourselves. Some of our dads handed us a standard of perfection to meet, which has lead to spending our lives and energy to satisfy and please... only to find that it doesn't matter how hard we may try, because it never seems good enough. Others carry the burden of having an unbelieving father, or your dad has passed away leaving a massive gap in your life and heart. Father's who cheated on our mother's... or were porn addicts. Father's who abdicated their role, and left. Or a conglomeration of several of these. The list is extensive. But, many of us carry the scars and have the battle stories.  

I cannot begin to understand some of these situations; I only really know my own. But whatever your relationship to your earthly dad is (or was) I do know this for all of us: Those are some of the most tender places in our hearts. They shouldn't be handled lightly or haphazardly. So all I want to do here is share what I've learned personally through some of my skirmishes and wounds...

There's a very legitimate and real link between how I approached my earthly dad, and then my heavenly father. See, men cannot and should not take parenting their children lightly. They hand down the primary viewpoint of God to their sons and daughters. They're called and created to uniquely shadow a significant reality: To mirror the heart and affections of God. Can you just feel how weighty of a calling that is? A whole lot is at stake, and God holds dads accountable to how they shepherd their daughter's heart.

Psychology studies in turn show that little girls grow up then seeking to fulfill their father hunger in boyfriends and spouses, men who are often much like their fathers because that's what these woman have grown up knowing... because dad's give their daughters a blueprint for what their future husband should be. 

Maybe dad was a really cracked and fuzzy mirror. Maybe dad handed down a blueprint with a lot of mis-measurments and faulty directions. But, there's very good news.

I always think of the fall (sin entering into the world as we read in Genesis) as fracturing. The breaking of everything, fatherhood included (which is why even the best of dads who love God can pass on a fuzzy mirror image). Earthly dads are human and they are sinful (as am I and as are you), but they too are in need of *forgiveness. Christ came to redeem everything, fatherhood included. And our God in heaven is indeed THE perfect, loving, steadfast Father for you and I. He's the Father some of us never had, encompassing all the traits, affections, and love for His daughters perfectly.

Let us not be tempted to think our earthly dad's agenda, actions, words, or attitude towards us are the same as our Heavenly Father. God isn't abusive by any means. He isn't nonchalant, apathetic, or passive towards you. He doesn't think you're boring or plain or ugly. He is totally trustworthy no matter what, and He won't ever leave you come what may. He's not out to manipulate you. He sent His Son to be perfection for you at the cross, because He knew that you couldn't be perfect, and it would be incredibly exhausting to live under anything but grace alone. He knows you better than you know yourself. His love for you is so utterly deep, so great, so unbelievably vast! Christ mirrored it perfectly at Calvary, with no cracks or fuzziness. And there's more good news...

God isn't like your crappy ex-boyfriend in any way. At the fall God promised to send a Bridegroom for the church, His wayward bride. Scripture gives us an amazing blueprint for a Christ-honoring, loving, joyful marriage. You don't have to settle to use a crappy blueprint if your earthly dad left you with it; You can upgrade to God's because He wants His daughters to marry men who follow Him and love as He does.

My hope and prayer in sharing any of these words today is simply this: That you and I would seek after and strive to know God as a good Dad. Because He is. That we'd give our hearts, follow, trust, and receive healing, redemption, and freedom from Abba. Rather than looking at earthly men to see what God is like as a Father, that instead we'd look at our heavenly Father to see how men should be fathers.

Because this is a huge topic that I could never cover more than at the surface level in one blog post, I've linked to some other things worth taking a look at...


  1. Wow Natalie...this is one of the best posts I have read in some time. (Actually, I think I have said that to you before.) You are so right about the father role, in so many ways. I think there are a lot of people who project who their father is, right on to God. Our fathers are very human and weak, and Our Father is none of that.

    I am so happy for you that you had a 'God moment' with your new friend, and that it bore fruit in this post. God is so good! I hope your friendship grows and deepens, if that is something you want.
    Really good writing today.

  2. Oh Natalie, I agree with Ceil. This is one of the best pieces I've read. Such a fragile topic, but one that so needs a voice. I had a beautiful relationship with my Dad (while I feel like he did so much right, he was still a flawed sinner), and I STILL doubt so much of God's affection. I can't imagine how much more devastating it is when a man goes beyond his fallen tendencies. :( Thank you for sharing your heart on this. I give a wholehearted amen, sister!

  3. Oh Natalie, I love your heart, always honest and truthful. I remember the first time I was sitting in a church and I heard Pastor Mark teach about fathers and daughters. It rocked my world because I did not realize how much of my view of God was based on my earthly dad. And then this truth was dug even deeper through redemption group through Mars Hill as I dealt with the fact that I did not see God as my Dad and the implications this held. I grew up seeing God as King, which He most certainly is. But I lacked the belief that while he was a King, He was also my daddy. I mean, I taught it at sunday school. I claimed it at women's bible study groups. But I did not live out of this truth. So God seemed distant. A far off King who is Creator and Ruler over all so I better try to work my way up to His castle in his kingdom. I better not screw up. I better look just right. So my life quickly followed the "right" rules and fell in a straight, neatly-packaged legalistic mentality. And while I looked like I knew my Dad, I really did not understand the depth of his love for me. But once I really started seeing Him as my Dad, my foundation was built on this Truth and everything changed. Yes, He is a mighty King, but because if His grace, He has adopted me (a nothing) and made me into a something: a daughter of that Almighty Creator King. His character and glory changed my position from a begger at the kingdom gates into the beautiful throne room of my Daddy King. I love this imagery and love that you have shared some of these great resources too!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your heart too Elle =) Your comments have been such an encouragement!


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