I’d like to start off by clarifying that I truly do love my father.

Sometimes loving him can be hard. Sometimes he is sexist. Sometimes he is racist. He is definitely homophobic. Usually I try to let these things pass through one ear and out the other as best I can, because he will not change and I want to keep as much of a relationship between the two of us as I can.

But this summer he’s been saying some things that are bad theology – bad for Christianity and bad for me, what with my wrestling with evangelicalism and all. And I know he is not the only one who says them. And I know I am not the only one who flinches with every word.

So, this post is for anyone who knows someone with a god-complex.

It usually goes something like this: I ask my father a reasonable, time-sensitive question and he will refuse to answer me. Don’t you trust me? he’ll ask. And then he’ll launch into a commentary on how he would like to be blindly trusted, just like we (as God’s children) should trust God.

Or he’ll tell my mom how he deserves submission and respect, using God’s demand for obedience as an example.

That’s when I throw-up in my mouth a little bit.

The thing is, my dad isn’t God. And God isn’t a father. At least, not in the way my dad likes to make it seem. Fatherhood is not the one, only, or primary way that God communicates with us. It’s a metaphor. It’s a picture, but it’s broken, especially in a world of fathers who walk out on their families or abuse their children.

Sometimes I don’t want to hear about God as Father – even though I fully understand that He is frequently likened to one in the Bible. I realize that God chose to reveal part of Himself, in the Trinity, as a father. But he also revealed Himself as a son. And a spirit. And so many other, beautiful pictures that express a piece of who He is.

And some days my heart is too broken, too tired of dealing with a physical father, that I want to relate to God in a different way. Pastors sometimes like to push the point, though. They say, even if your earthly father is so unlike a father he’s unrecognizable, God is The Perfect Father. Run to him, even though you cannot possibly grasp what a good father looks like. But some days I am too sick of the metaphor and it hinders my way to seeing God.

Here’s to the children who need more than just a better father. Here’s to the ones who are tired of reaching for masculine metaphors for a Spirit-being that is beyond the confines of such limited definitions.

Here’s five other things that God is, just as much as He is a “father”:

  • God as Mother. I firmly believe that God is gender-less. God is spirit. God is other. Has God predominantly chosen to reveal Himself as male to this planet? Absolutely. It makes sense, when God spoke into an ancient, patriarchal culture, that He would reveal Himself as something that could be understood easily by them. But God is more than masculine. He wants to protect His people “just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Matt. 23:37 CEB). The Holy Spirit is in the business of making disciples born again. In fact, theetymology for the name El Shaddai means “many-breasted one.”
  • God as Friend. When we are apart from God, we are known as God’s enemies. But “now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death, to present you before God as a people who are holy, faultless, and without blame” (Col. 1:22). And in James 2:23 it says, “So the scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and God regarded him as righteous. What is more, Abraham was called God’s friend.”
  • God as Shepherd. I have always been captivated by this understanding of God. When I was little, and learned that my name means “ewe” in Hebrew, I loved to think of Jesus as my shepherd. And what a beautiful metaphor it is! Isaiah 40:11 says “Like a shepherd, God will tend the flock; he will gather lambs in his arms, and lift them onto his lap. He will gently guide the nursing ewes.”
  • God as Potter. We are clay, being shaped by this master craft-smith (Romans 9:20). I have a friend who is a ceramicist. Watching her form a lump of clay into a delicate, smooth bowl is a mesmerizing process. I love to think of God as a potter using His creativity, wisdom, and authority over us.
  • God as Love. I John 4:8 says that God IS love. God is the embodiment of all that pure, perfect love can be.

If you do not know how to reach out to a father, this God of Love can still reach down to you, hold your broken pieces close together, and give you peace.

Published by Rachel Lindke