By Sabrina Schlesinger
Growing up in the church, I have seen a lot…some great things, and some not-so-great things. All have impacted me and helped shape the woman I am today. But there has never been a more impactful revelation that has truly transformed who I am than the one of discovering God isn’t just this big, massive Deity who I should have reverent awe for (which I do), but He is also my father, my dad, and at times…my daddy.
I, like many of you, grew up with a big whole in my heart in the shape of a dad. And you guys…my real dad is awesome! He has provided for me my entire life, he is full of love, has the best belly laugh you’ve ever heard, is the hardest worker I know, and the best grandpa to our kids!!!! But he is also human. And so in his own humanity, he loved me the best he knew how with the tools that had been passed down to him from his father, and at times, for a young teenage girl, there weren’t enough tools on his tool belt to know how to father me in the way I needed. I wasn’t able to even verbalize what I needed as a young lady until years later, and when I did, my dad did his very best to meet those needs.
But during the unspoken years, the years where neither of us knew what the heck to do…I found myself floundering. I was desperate for approval, needy for affection, and searching for identity. And there were plenty of boys who stepped into that whole in my heart to attempt to fill it…unsuccessfully.
So when I was introduced to God as “Father”, it floored me. I went from being needy to being loved, from insecure to confident, from empty to whole. I let the love of Father God seep into every crevice and valley of my mind, heart, and emotions, into every area of my past, my present, and most of all…my future. I let the words of my Father shape me, mold me, discipline me, teach me, encourage me, and heal me.
And I do believe that an earthly father can contribute to the heart of their children in the same way. And although no earthly father can replace God our Father, he can certainly represent Him in a way that more accurately depicts His character and heart, making it easier for a child to relate to God in this way.
All this to say…we need fathers. We need earthly fathers, and we need Father God. Father’s bring something to the table that is unique. It isn’t in competition with what mothers bring, it is just different than what mothers bring. And different isn’t bad; it’s just that…it’s different.
And as you are reading this, God wants to work on two levels…one in your heart, and one for your kids.
On one hand, this is all about you! No matter how old or young you are, every girl needs her dad. And whether your dad was a good one, bad one, or indifferent one is honestly irrelevant at this point. He, Father God, is the BEST Father and wants you to know Him intimately that way. So let Him in. Don’t let what you experienced as a child keep you from knowing God this way. What a shame if you do. You are seriously missing out, sister.
And Father God wants to be a Father to your children; in tandem or despite the father they have or don’t have.
I love that regardless of our circumstances…single, widowed, divorced, married, etc…we all have the same inherent need to be loved, championed, and affirmed. Why? Because Father God placed that inside each of us to help us find Him.
I see it like a road map placed within our DNA at the beginning of our conception. And the destination, the searching, the wandering, all leads to Him and His loving, capable, and safe arms. He put that in me, He put that in you, and He put that in our kids.
So here are three ways we can lead our kids and ourselves to the ultimate Treasure on the map so we can walk out our days in wholeness!
1. Renew your mind with truth – So often we see God through an incorrect filter, so we have wrong expectations of Him. We view Him through the lens of our earthly fathers, and for many of us, that lens is warped, broken, and filthy. This is why we so desperately need His Word, the B.I.B.L.E. to come and reshape our perspective and theology about who He actually is. Here are some verses that have helped me. (Matthew 7:9-11; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:5-7; 1 John 3:1; Psalm 139:14) And it wasn’t enough for me to read these verses once, I had to write them down, post them on my mirror so I would see them all the time, I would memorize them, and meditate on them until it changed my mind…until I actually believed them to be true. That is renewing the mind in a nutshell!
FOR THE KIDS: Give them some of these scriptures to memorize! Make it fun, give them rewards, and while they are doing this, the Word of Truth is getting etched into their hearts!
2. Talk to Him daily – Create a space and a place to meet with Him. And this isn’t just once each day; bring Him with you into every arena of life. He actually has a lot to say if we will take the time to ask Him and then wait to listen! For some, this may be journaling questions and giving Him time to answer you back. For others it may be talking to Him as you go on a walk or during your shower in the morning where you are alone. It doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it, it just matters that you find the way that works for you. And talk to Him about everything! Your hopes, your fears, your concerns, your dreams, you past, present and future. Make this kind of dialogue normal and see how your relationship with Him will grow when you relate to Him as His child.
FOR THE KIDS: Teach your kids to go to God with all their needs first! If they have a tummy ache, pray with them about it. If they are worried about a test at school, talk to God with them about it. And give them time to go have a conversation with Father God themselves. If my kids are upset about something, I encourage them to go into their rooms for five minutes, turn on some worship music, and talk to God about what they are feeling. You are creating a culture in your home that conversations with Father God are normal.
3. Ask Him to lead you and then trust Him – A father is there to lead us, to guide us, and to protect us. But he can’t protect us if we don’t listen, trust, and follow his instructions. The same goes for our Father in Heaven. Just like Mathew 7 says, He is a good Father who has good gifts to give to His children. His ways are the BEST ways! Even if there are obstacles, His ways are still the best! Even if we have to wait…still the best. Even if He says, “No.” or “Not yet.” Yep, even then, His ways are still the best. Imagine if we simply trusted Him and didn’t knock down doors He carefully closed because He knew we weren’t ready. Imagine if we didn’t ignore His warning and ran towards the things He knew would damage us. Imagine if we chose what He was blessing instead of asking Him to bless our bad decisions. What if we asked permission before jumping into the deep end? What if we took Him at His word? What if we obeyed all the things? What would life look for you and for me and for our kids? Its one thing to know the right thing to do…it’s another to actually do it. I know as a good Father, He will run towards us when we have screwed it all up…because He is forgiving and so, so good. But how much farther would we be if we listened for His leading, trusted Him, and then obeyed His instructions?
FOR THE KIDS: Make it normal for your kids to see and hear you asking Father God what He thinks about a situation or a decision that needs to be made, big and small. Let them see your process, and in so doing, when they have a decisions to make, they will know exactly who to go to first. And equally, if you stepped ahead of God and things didn’t go well for you, be honest with your kid about it so they can see and learn that God isn’t obligated to bless our decisions or protect us when we step outside of His covering.
Sister, momma, daughter, friend…let’s stop running away from Him and instead run straight into His embrace. He has been waiting patiently for your return. No matter what has happened, no matter how far you have gone, no matter how dirty you are, RUN TO HIM! We can’t clean ourselves up anyways apart from His mercy and grace. So stop making excuses, stop beating yourself up, stop making yourself “pay” for your bad decisions. Get up and start running, and you will see Him sprinting towards you when you do! He will pick you up, twirl you around, throw His robe on you to cover all the things you are ashamed of, and embrace you so purely that it will heal you to your core.
Sabrina is a mother to three biological girls and one adopted boy. She is a pastor’s wife, graphic designer, and founder of Mom Mentor. Along with her husband, Matthew, they pastor Grace Church in Oceanside, CA and host Parenting on the Go and Marriage on the Go Podcasts! She resides in beautiful San Diego where the sun shines every day. She prefers chai lattes over coffee, mac-n-cheese over vegetables, and staying in over going out. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook!