I’ve come to believe that a life with God is more like a father and son hunting trip rather than a class on systematic theology.
I know a guy who once told me that the reason why he hunts is not just because he enjoys shooting deer, but because it is when the world has grown silent that he can hear the voice of God. Apparently, he tends to hear God more in a blind than a pew. I am not much of a hunter, but I can understand why. After all, the wilderness is where God speaks. The Hebrews can attest to that.
That same man tells me that one of his favorite things is to take his son on hunting trips. Occasionally they come back with a deer, but more often than not, they come back with new and old inside jokes, tick bites, and a more intimate relationship. There is something about spending a few days in the woods that causes the age-old questions of girls, God, and everything in between to be asked. Some conversations just can’t be had at the dinner table, and some questions are best answered without mom around.
The Bible often uses language insinuating fatherhood. Adopted. Child. Born Again. Heck, Jesus Himself claimed that God was His Father — and proved it. Yet the very Christian culture of today can make one feel like an orphan, or at least anything other than a son.
“You’re a believer? Great. Here — join this small group and this Bible study and do this devotion and meet this guy at Starbucks every Monday at this time for one hour for the next six months…Oh, and also watch this series from this pastor and read this book.”
Sound familiar? Well, it sounds exhausting. I thought the Christian life was one of rest. He calls all the weak and weary, and yet I find myself becoming even more weak and weary through all these programs, devotions, and books. What if we took a step back and actually asked ourselves what it is we are truly looking for in the programs, devotions, books, and “discipleship” of others?
When I do so, the answer is sobering. I come to the realization that what I am truly after in my heart is a father. Whether it be in the book I pick up or in the older guy I get coffee with, my heart is seeking answers to all the questions left unanswered. I am seeking initiation into masculinity. I am seeking validation. I am seeking confidence. I am seeking identity. Because deep down, despite what Ephesians says, I still feel like an orphan. I have no idea how to be a son, and consequently, I have no idea how to allow God to father me.
We live in a culture obsessed with the now, so it makes sense why the modern Christian answer to almost anything is to do the newest 3-day devotional or 6-week study guide. But from what I read in the Gospels, Jesus doesn’t do this. Instead, he woos and confronts his crowd with two simple words: follow me. Now, don’t misunderstand me here. I believe in programs and devotionals. God can and will use them to teach us and mold us more into His image. But to think that a life with God is solely, or even primarily, about theological doctrines or head knowledge is borderline Platonic. What I mean by this is the separation of the body and the soul and the idea that some things in life are sacred while others are secular. In reality, from a truly Biblical perspective, all of life is sacred. This may seem like a tangent, but what this means is that God wishes to mature me, teach me, disciple me, and father me in all areas of life. He isn’t just after my heart — He is after my soul, which in the Hebrew always refers to a person’s entire being.
In Jeremiah 6:16, God calls us to “stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” He calls us into initiation, into the Life that he offers. He calls us to be fathered. He desires to reveal to us the ancient paths, the Good Way. And it’s awkward. Much like the middle school kid going through puberty, learning to walk along the ancient paths can be uncomfortable and challenging. Like any good father (and He is the Good Father), he challenges and convicts us. But he also encourages, loves, and showers us with grace.
This may all sound very Christian cliche-ish, and I’d understand why. Ultimately, what I’ve come to realize is that no one man can truly father me — Only God can. However, the beautiful thing about this is that God often fathers me through other men, and often in ways unexpected. I’ve received the fathering of God through my own dad, my counselor, my pastor, and my boss. I’ve received fathering from a Rastafarian in Jamaica and from a stranger on a plane. And God knows I’ve received fathering from countless Kenny Chesney songs. Movies, too. Perhaps one day Robin Williams will know just how much his character meant to me in Good Will Hunting.
A few nights ago, I spent four hours talking with a 40-something year old dad about everything from girls to God. We may have not been on a hunting trip, but it sure felt like it. I had met him just the day before, yet I cried as if I had known him for years. The only thing missing from our conversation was a beer or two. That night, at 1 in the morning as I talked about my own doubts, desires, dreams, and endless questions, I felt the fathering of God. My heart was softened, and I was once again reminded of the Epic that I am a part of. We’ve all come a long way from Eden, but God calls for each of us to return home.
Being fathered by God is a process, and a lifelong one at that. I’m thankful for all the people I’ve met along the journey, especially those who have taught me and showed me the heart of God, whether by words or actions. Here’s to eternity. Here’s to restoration. Here’s to the feast.