The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. (Psalm 103:13-14)
I know a girl whose father left her and her mother when she was just a little girl. When her dad left, her mom used to lock her in a closet for days at a time, sliding her food under the door every now and then so she wouldn’t starve. For this girl, ‘father’ is a non-word or rather, that feeling of deep helplessness she had all those lonely nights so many years ago.
My good friend grew up watching his dad drink himself to sleep every night until one night a few years ago he drank himself to death, leaving my friend alone to take care of his grieving family. For my buddy, fathers only ever heap heavy loads on their sons, never lifting themselves off the couch to lend a hand.
My wife always looked up to her dad, believing he was the standard by which all men should be measured. Four years ago, her world shattered when her dad called to tell her he was leaving the family to start a life with another woman. His actions sent a lightning bolt through her heart, causing her to doubt if she’d ever be worth it. She questions whether or not she has anything to offer anyone that will keep them around when life hits hardest.
And here, in Psalm 103 we have a description of a God who is like a Father in the way that he deals with his children.
Father is a loaded word, isn’t it?
When we see “father” on a page, we all have our own image in our head. Many associate the term ’father’ with abuse, neglect, shame, abandonment, confusion, pain or anger.
But David says God isn’t that type of dad.
God doesn’t take from his children. He doesn’t exploit their weaknesses. He doesn’t respond to their failures with flashes of rage or swinging fists. He doesn’t withhold love from his daughters when they make a choice that isn’t ideal. He doesn’t throw the weighty burden of expectation on the shoulders of his sons, only to scoff when they struggle under the load.
No, “He knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” God knows that each of us have been crushed by life at one time or another. He has seen that moment when your life shattered and you felt your whole body fragment, falling to the floor in tiny pieces until you felt… just…like…. dust. He knows that we humans and our dusty frames can’t handle much, so he gently speaks with us, tenderly; being sure to deal with us carefully. Just like a good Father would.
God, we are needy creatures. In spite of all we know, all our intelligence, all of our strength, we are still only human. You know how deeply each of us has been hurt. Mishandled. Wounded. You know how prone we are to mistrust you. Please be patient with us as we learn what it means for you to be our Father. Holy Spirit, give us the patience to listen to the compassionate voice of God. Jesus, draw us closer to you, keep us when we feel we can’t continue. Teach us to rest in you when we feel we are not able. In your name we ask these things, amen.