It’s an owl

Since it’s Father’s Day weekend I felt moved to write something about fatherhood.

In the New Testament we’re shown the dynamic of God as Father and the church as his children. It says in 1 John 3:1, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” This statement, while encapsulating God’s affection, communicates truth beyond his endearment. When the dimensions of this statement are explored more fully it introduces a relational dynamic that empowers the children of God with a principle that can change our lives.

I have two very different children named Kyla and Chase. My son Chase is seven – he’s in 2nd grade and he’s learning how to read. Kyla is a “creative spirit” while Chase tends to be more scientific and analytical. Chase is inquisitive and notices lots of things that usually prompt him to ask lots of questions. Learning how to read has unlocked an entire new world of exploration for Chase. Anything with words such as freeway billboards, TV commercials, bumper stickers, etc. constitute a secret code for him to try to unlock and decipher.

I was driving home from a church event several weeks ago with just Chase in the car. Kyla was with her mom. Chase was riding shotgun, which he loves because he can see much more than when he’s stuck in the backseat. There was a low tone of music coming from the radio – more of an ambient noise than anything else. We were both quiet. I was tired from a long day and wasn’t paying any attention to what Chase was looking at. We exit the freeway near our home and stop at the red light at the end of the off-ramp. The car rolls to a stop and stare-off at nothing allowing my mind to disengage. Eventually I hear Chase begin to spell something under his breath. I couldn’t tell exactly what he was spelling because I still wasn’t paying all that much attention. However, even with a superficial interest, I could tell that he was using his phonics to try to figure out a word he had never seen before. His voice grew a little louder and little clearer as I heard him mumble, “H-O-O” under his breath. One more second passed and I hear him pronounce, “H-O-O-T.” Another second goes by and I begin to refocus my mind to prepare for the green light. The light turns green and Chase yells-out, with a proud tone of accomplishment, “HOOTERS!!!” After nearly spitting out my gum, I immediately trace his line of sight to identify what he was looking at. It only took a brief moment for me to identify the big orange sign with big block letters belonging to a popular restaurant chain located across from where we were stopped.

Chase and I sat in silence for another second or two as the traffic began to move. I began to prepare myself for the looming question that was sure to follow my son’s new discovery. It felt like an hour – even though it was only a few seconds – between his discovery and when he looked up at me and innocently asked, “Dad, what does ‘“hooters”’ mean?” I took a deep breath and summoned all of my theological acumen, pastoral training and wisdom in an urgent attempt to answer his question. The voice in my head said, “The Bible says don’t lie … I really don’t think I should lie. But, I can’t tell him what it means either! Maybe I should lie … just this once … OR, maybe I could just ignore him and pretend like I didn’t hear the question.” I was leaning towards ignoring Chase’s question until he asked it again after not receiving any response from me the first time. “Dad, what does “’hooters”’ mean?” he asked still looking at me intently. I thought I was out of options and that I would be forced to respond with the inadequate “it’s nothing … don’t worry about it” statement that I’ve given in the past. “Don’t worry about it” was going to be my answer until the Holy Spirit guided me to a concept at the last moment. God gave me a principle that offered a better response: I would tell Chase the truth he was ready to hear … nothing more, nothing less. Empowered by this new principle I finally looked over at Chase and said in a very casual voice, “It’s an owl.”

Believe it or not, this is what loving fathers do with their children. Loving fathers give their children the truth they are ready to hear … nothing more, nothing less. I could have easily dismissed my son’s question by saying, “it’s nothing … don’t worry about it” or I could have lied. Those are responses born out of lack of concern. But, I am concerned about my son and I understand that, in the long run, those answers will leave him feeling slighted and frustrated with me. Chase did nothing wrong by asking a question. It’s human nature to look for answers to things we don’t understand. And, sometime we ask hard questions and when the answer is dismissive or deceptive we quickly lose faith in the person offering it. This is why loving fathers do not dismiss or deceive their children when they ask a question. Rather, loving fathers offer their children answers they are ready to hear. This is what our heavenly Father does with his children.

We have questions about the human experience that the Bible does not answer as thoroughly as we might prefer. These questions are hard for us. It can be a healthy exercise in faith and spiritual discipline when we wrestle with these questions … but sometimes it can backfire on us too. Sometimes we spend a great deal of time and effort trying to understand what certain things mean or why certain things happen, and in the process overlook the father/child dynamic. It’s easy to believe that because we serve God and we have closeness with him that we’re his buddy. But, we’re not his buddy – we’re his kids. We’re his naïve, simple-minded, finite children who do not have the spiritual, mental or emotional capacity to withstand every truth of the universe. We simply do not possess the threshold to be God’s “buddy” because, when compared to God, we have some very serious limitation with our comprehension and cognitive abilities. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” While this passage is often cited as a platitude it actually expresses a much deeper sentiment than as a simple condolence or resignation. This is the father/child dynamic! This passage shows the vast dynamic between a loving Father and his simpleminded children. Our faith in the Father would increase if we explored the dimensions of this father/child dynamic with more fervor. We would find ourselves less troubled by things that leave us so puzzled – bad things that are hard to reconcile with a good God – if we were willing to explore this dynamic better. We would find a greater peace in those moments when our sense of justice is attacked or our conscience is unsettled if we embraced our role as child and God’s role as Father; a Father who has “thoughts” and “ways” that are higher than ours.

Throughout our lives we will only know a fraction of what God is doing and why he’s doing it. But, we can trust that God loves us as a father loves his children. We can trust that he will give us certain truth when we are ready to handle it. We can trust that he will not lie to us or dismiss our questions. We can trust that his special revelation, the Bible, already contains more truth than we could ever possibly uncover in this life. We can trust that our Father God has figured out the most complex and convoluted truths of our universe, even if we haven’t. We can trust that sometimes all we need to know is, “it’s an owl.”

Happy Father’s Day!

-Matt

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About Matt Brecht
Lead Pastor of NorthPointe Church

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