One of the joys of being a Christian is knowing that I’m securely held in the loving arms of my heavenly Father – locked in his arms, in fact. His embrace is total love and acceptance, things we all need if we’re to ‘survive’ life without bitterness and rejection. There are many promises in Scripture about how much love Father God, and his wonderful Son, Jesus, have for us: and for me the loveliest worship songs are about his love – especially ‘How deep the Father’s love for us’ by the lovely Stuart Townend:
How deep the Father's love for us How vast beyond all measure That He should give His only Son To make a wretch His treasure How great the pain of searing loss The Father turns His face away As wounds which mar the Chosen One Bring many sons to glory Behold the man upon a cross My sin upon His shoulders Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice Call out among the scoffers It was my sin that held Him there Until it was accomplished His dying breath has brought me life I know that it is finished I will not boast in anything No gifts, no power, no wisdom But I will boast in Jesus Christ His death and resurrection Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer But this I know with all my heart His wounds have paid my ransom Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer But this I know with all my heart His wounds have paid my ransom
For those of us who no longer have the privilege of having our earthly dads with us – in my case it most certainly WAS a privilege to have the dad I had – knowing Father God’s love is so incredibly special. I know I wouldn’t have survived through life without His love. In a few days time, 54 years ago, my dad went to be with his heavenly Father: Thursday, 30 September 1965, at 5.09 pm, aged only 41 years, as a result of a terrible diagnosis from his doctor and subsequent treatment for pneumonia and not a massive pulmonary embolism. I’ll be truthful and say it took me many years to forgive that doctor, it held me back from becoming a ‘full-fledged’ Christian: I was 12 years old when dad went, and while all the wonderful things that were said about him at his funeral (he was an Elder, Treasurer, and Sunday School Secretary at our – then – church) were nice to hear, they meant nothing as my dad had gone. The pastor of the church used the words spoken of Stephen, as he was martyred in the book of Acts – ‘He was a man filled with the Holy Spirit and Faith’. It was six long years before God finally cornered me, and I submitted my life totally to Him, and was wonderfully blessed to be filled with His Holy Spirit.
My dad was an amazing man: a much better man in his 41 years than I’ll ever be. I was born very, very sick, and doctors said that living in the environment and air of the east-end of London wasn’t helping. So when I was nearly 6, dad gave up an amazing job as Borough Treasurer of one of the east-end boroughs, and we moved to Sussex, where he took on running a grocer’s shop, which was menial and physically demanding by comparison. Never once in my hearing did he ever complain, but the heavy physical work took its toll, and 6 years later, this amazing – but shy and humble – man of God, gave up his life – effectively for me. I’d just got home from school, and heard what I had no idea were his last breaths from the bottom of the stairs (a family friend stopped me from going up to see him, which I dearly wanted to) – but even in those last moments when he struggled to breathe with the pulmonary embolism sucking the air out of him, dad’s last words were ‘Lord, if I’m dying, forgive me’. No fear of death, just an acknowledgment that as a man, he needed God’s forgiveness. Those words more than the breaths mean the world to me. Though I didn’t know it, God held me so close those turbulent next years as emotionally and psychologically I struggled to recover from losing him.
I empathise with all fatherless friends, for whatever reason. My prayer is that you, too, know the loving locked embrace of your heavenly Father.
But he’d laid a wonderful loving foundation in my life – representative of God’s love for him – and I’d dearly love to thank him for that. In 1983, soul singer Luther Vandross, released a wonderful song – ‘Dance with my father again’ – which encapsulates so much for me the love my dad had for me – which even though it was wonderful, doesn’t even come close to the love Father God has for me.
Father – thank you for loving me. Jesus – thank you for loving me. Dad – thank you for loving me. I’d love to sit and talk to you every day, but one day, in heaven, that will be possible….