June 26, 2010

God the Father

Filed under: Pressing Toward the Mark — Katryna Starks @ 4:30 pm

Every Father’s Day, I reflect on God the Father and his love. But God isn’t actually male. God is spirit and doesn’t have a gender. As I read on a recent message board, one could just as easily say “God the Mother”. Even some newer Bibles use gender-neutral language to describe God. So does it matter if God is referred to as “father?” I think it may.

Both mothers and fathers love their children, but very differently. A mother’s love can be seen as somewhat automatic. The child is literally a part of the mother from conception until birth. The mother gains an understanding of her child in the womb. She changes how she eats based on how the baby responds to different foods. She has to go to doctor appointments in order to check the baby’s progress. During a few months of the pregnancy, she can even “play” with the baby by pressing different spots on her stomach, sometimes eliciting a response. By the time the child is born, a lot of bonding has already occurred between baby and mother, and the love she has for her child is seemingly instant and effortless.

Fathers bond with their children as well, but only if they choose to. A father can walk away from his child at the moment of conception and not look back. A man can be a father and not even know there was a pregnancy at all. Even if he is aware, he can choose to be distant. He is not physically obligated to be at prenatal doctor appointments. He doesn’t have to adjust his diet. He doesn’t carry the child inside of him. He doesn’t give birth. In a way, a father has to choose to form a bond with his children. He chooses to stay. He chooses to love.

In that sense, God is both mother and father. God formed humans with direct involvement, as a mother. However, God chose to reveal himself to us as a father. Not because he wanted us to understand any aspect of maleness, but because he wanted to emphasize that, like a father, he has chosen to love us. He has chosen to claim us. To not deny us. To preserve our relationship at all costs.

Ephesians 1:3-4 tells us that God chose us even before he formed the earth. In I John 4:19 we learn that he loved us before we loved him. That, I believe, is the essence of why God presents himself to us as a father. He wants us to know that we are not just loved, we are chosen.