Our Very Human God

Our Very Human God

By Kenneth Tanner

Our closest galactic neighbor, Andromeda, is 2.5 million light-years away. She dwarfs our galaxy and contains a trillion stars.

The energy that fuels all those stars and has kept them in a spiral for 13 billion years is measurable, but who has the instruments or the time? The best we can do is make estimates.

Our witness and wisdom say that a first-century baby born to a peasant Jewish teenager, a baby whose stepfather was a carpenter, is the One who spoke this galaxy into fiery substance and perpetual motion from nothing way back when.

And our tradition claims that this human is the One who spoke another hundred billion galaxies into existence from no substance that existed before – ex nihilo in the ancient tongue.

One of the scriptural stories about this human tells us that on the night before he suffered for the cosmos he created – that he loves from eternity before his own life – he took a towel and a basin of water and washed the feet of his friends.

You cannot wash someone’s feet without getting low to the ground, on your knees.

In the world of his time, the host of a meal would not be the one to wash the feet of his guests. This was the task of a servant.

When Jesus wraps a towel around his waist and washes the feet of his disciples he gives us a portrait of the unseen Father, who holds all things together – visible and invisible – as an unassuming, humble servant.

When we dare to mess around with the invisible structures by which God holds the visible universe together – splitting atoms, for instance – we witness the awesome energy generated by the smallest (unwise) manipulation of his handiwork. Yet this incalculable energy – even the smallest fraction of it leaves us in awe – is harnessed to an extreme humility. 

This divine humility, incarnate in Jesus Christ, is the source of all the energy in the cosmos.

What this moment at the last supper reveals, what this washing of feet shows us, is that the power of God has its origin not in what fallen human imagination supposes – not in great demonstrations of might, of subatomic or interstellar power – but in innumerable divine acts of indiscriminate, behind-the-scenes, and costly stewardship.

He literally cares for all things, great and small, from what may even seem useless to us – the things we would throw away – to things of such exquisite beauty we are left without words.

As revealed in the human Jesus, God is the one among us who serves, kneeling on the floor of the universe, towel in hand, ready to do the menial work that holds all things together, the work of a love that does not seek attention, does not boast, is not rude or jealous, that keeps no record of wrongs, that does not fail.

What does it mean that the One who creates all stars and fuels their fires is on his knees serving humans as their human brother?

Let me suggest that it means that most human projection of what it means to be a god or the God in the history of humans – and most human imagination of what it means to be powerful – is deeply mistaken.

One makes oneself vulnerable to wash feet in a world without proper sanitation and sewers but this sacred gospel detail about humbly kneeling and scrubbing his friend’s feet is not nearly the lowest place this human (who is somehow also God) goes or will go to love the cosmos.

This human who is God descends further still, down into death, entering by his own terrible death into the death of every human, for every time the one human nature we all share dies in one of our fellow humans we all of us die again, and he dies again with us, and further still: Jesus descends into all our hells.

One of the pastors of the first Christians, Athanasius, says that Jesus keeps falling further than our hells and his descent is not slowed until he is beneath the deepest falling human, down to the edges of non-existence, to rescue us, and to give the one human nature we all share permanence.

He is not stingy with his kind of existence. He wants his fellow humans to participate in his never-ending divine life.

He gives humans not the permanence of Andromeda but his own permanence, and with all humans somehow gives the cosmos the gift of his eternity.

As a fellow human, Jesus is our mediator and advocate, made like his brothers and sisters in every way so that he might be One who rules and judges those whose existence he understands from the inside, because he lived our human story with us in the most vulnerable, authentic, and beautiful way.

In Jesus, God has a mother and a betrayer. In Jesus, God has scars and God has memories: of meals and laughter with his friends and cold nights huddled together against the desert air in cloaks, he recalls storms at sea and a grinding emptiness at the tomb of his friend.

In Jesus, God knows hunger and thirst and loneliness and pain. In Jesus, God knows the human devastation of divorce and disease and death.

In Jesus, the One like a son of man who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth is also one of us. And Jesus discloses a God who rules all things by a humility we cannot even begin to grasp. His power is disclosed in weakness and poverty, by surrender and trust.

The One who is to be our judge renders his judgment on his human brothers and sisters from the brutal cross to which we nailed him: “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.”

And he is now and forever there with the Father in the flesh, for us, and we are there close to the heart of the Father in Jesus, as his body. We are mystically one with God in the humanity of Jesus and God is one with us humans in the Son and loves us.

Jesus remains always the servant of his beloved cosmos and of everything and everyone in it and that’s what makes him truly Lord of all. 

Kenneth Tanner is pastor of Church of the Holy Redeemer in Rochester Hills, Michigan, and author of Vulnerable God (forthcoming from Baker Books, Fall 2023). Image: “Christ Ruler of All,” by Lyuba Yaskiv, Iconart Modern Sacred Art Gallery in Lviv, Ukraine.  

How Prayer Helps a Hurting Heart

How Prayer Helps a Hurting Heart

By Scott McDermott

Learning how to pray when our life is hurting is one of the most important lessons we can ever learn in life, yet so few of us have been taught just how to do it. Personal pain is a part of everyone’s experience. As Jesus teaches, the storms of life happen to all of us (Matthew 7:24-27). At times that pain may stem from some deep personal disappointments while at other times it may come from the loss of a relationship or the loss of a loved one. 

It was during a season of personal pain that the Lord taught me a way to pray that has helped me get through some of the darkest seasons of my life. These six steps proved to be transformative, and I pray they will be the same for you as you walk through your own pain. These six steps are not new. Not at all. In fact, these six steps are woven throughout the book of Psalms, one of the powerful books of prayers and songs of worship in the Bible. So, as we pray them, we follow an ancient and Spirit-inspired path to healing and restoration.

1. Choose to lift your eyes to the Lord. Here is how the Psalmist describes this: “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1,2).

One can almost imagine the people of the Bible making their way up to Jerusalem for one of three annual feasts singing this Psalm. Their journey would take them along some difficult and treacherous terrain. The terrain they traveled must have reminded them of their very own life experiences. After all, life can be difficult. And yet this Psalm reminds us of something very important. Our help is not found in our own strength, it is only found in the strength that God can give. God is the one who can get us through all that we are experiencing no matter how difficult. 

When we go through seasons of personal pain it is all too easy to become overwhelmed by it all. In lifting our hearts to God, however, we learn how to give direction to our pain. In other words, we overcome our problems by learning how to reach above them. And that is what prayer does. It reminds us where our help comes from. Prayer gives us the ability to reach above our problems to the One who gives us the grace to overcome them. 

When we focus on God, his love, his faithfulness, and his goodness, we begin to find the hope and strength that cannot be found anywhere else. When I have sought to live into this, my prayers often begin with something like this: “Lord, I am looking to you and not to myself for all I need. You are the one who can help me. You are Lord over all my life and all my circumstances.” In doing so I am directing my life to look to God and not to myself for all I need. 

2. Be honest with God. Being open and honest before God is the next step in learning how to work through personal pain. Many want to ignore this step, and simply skip to another theme, but that is not how true restoration comes. We can never overcome our pain by ignoring it. God won’t let us. Restoration only comes by learning how to unburden our hearts before God. Psalm 77 is a great example of this. At times it is filled with mighty declarations about God’s mighty activity, while at other times it is filled with expressions of anguish and distress. Psalm 77:2 says: “When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted.” Deep faith is found in learning how to unburden your heart before God. How have I done this?

• I ask the Lord to show me where my heart is for that day. At times, especially during seasons of loss, I find that my heart was filled with sadness, frustration, anger, questions, and sorrow. By asking God to reveal what was deep inside, I permit God to search the depths of my heart (Psalm 139:23,24) so that nothing is hidden from him. 

• I have learned that there is power in learning how to give expression to my own pain. By naming it I could better release all that I was experiencing to God (1 Peter 5:7). 

• I learned that God welcomed my deep confession. After all, when we make such confessions we can feel embarrassed or ashamed, but the truth is God’s love never fails us. In seasons like this I remember saying to God: “Lord you know I am not proud of how I feel, but I want my life to be right before you.” And then I would make my deep confessions before him. In the lowest moments of life, God’s love and grace still abound to us.

3. Express your complete trust in God. One must be careful to never get stuck in step two. It is always easier to complain than believe. That is what makes this next step so important. Psalm 62:8 reminds us that we are to: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” I cannot emphasize enough how significant this expression of trust is for moving forward. I have seen it shift the atmosphere of my life and many others I have prayed with. 

So, what does this step look like? For me, I have often experienced it like this. After pouring my heart out, I simply say something like this to God: “Lord I do not understand all that is happening or even why it is happening, but I want you to know this, I trust You! I trust even when I don’t understand.”

4. Release everything to God. Remember all those expressions of pain in step two? Now is the time to lift them before God. As Psalm 34:19 reminds us “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” Usually, I go back over all the things I have confessed in step two and release them one by one to God. I will say something like: “Lord, I release all of this to you. It is yours. My life and all my days belong to you. Take these areas of my life and use them to accomplish your purposes.”

5. Look for signs of God working. Even when we are in the darkest places of life, God never deserts us. God is always there and God is always working. Psalm 139 declares that God will make himself known even in the most difficult places of our lives. “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” God will always be there for me. 

When my daughter had cancer, we would sit around the dinner table every night reflecting on where we saw God at work that day. Some of those days were dark and difficult and yet we always found evidence of God working in our lives without fail. One day as we traveled for one of her regular chemotherapy treatments, we were over halfway on our hour drive when my daughter informed us that she had forgotten the favorite teddy bear that she brought with her for each treatment. Due to the scheduling of the treatment, we didn’t have time to turn around and get it. I can still remember how she cried. 

When we got to the hospital we made our way to the treatment room and they readied her for the next round of chemo. Some time into the treatment something amazing happened. Two volunteers were working their way around this large treatment ward passing out teddy bears to all the children receiving treatment. I couldn’t believe it. I said to my daughter, “Look Bec. Do you see this! You may have forgotten your teddy bear, but God has not forgotten you!”  

God cares about our every need and he will find a way to make himself known to you. 

6. Take the time to praise God. When those moments occur, remember to thank God for being so faithful. As Psalm 107:1 reminds us, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Forever is a long time! Most importantly for us, it also means that God’s goodness and love will make itself known in every season of life. Even in the most difficult season. Giving thanks helps us to see the good that God is doing and helps remind us that we are not alone as we travel this road. God is always with us. 

Praying this pattern doesn’t mean that restoration will come instantly. The healing of the heart takes time. As we walk this journey with this prayer, learning how to look to God, being honest with him, declaring our trust and unburdening our hearts, looking for the signs of his working, and thanking him, we can rest assured of this, God will one day bring a new day into our lives. God will get each us through our lowest moment. You can count on it! God is faithful! 

Scott McDermott has been the lead pastor of The Crossing United Methodist Church in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania since 1993. Dr. McDermott has a BA and an MA in Biblical Studies, an MDiv, and an MPh. He also has a PhD in New Testament Studies from Drew University. Image: Shutterstock.

Lenten Underground

Lenten Underground

“We are together” by Kateryna Shadrina of Lviv, Ukraine. Used by permission of the artist.

By Steve Beard

It was standing-room-only for the noon Ash Wednesday service at my local church. Ushers were pulling folding chairs out of a closet and people were sitting in the hallway outside the sanctuary. Parishioners were literally standing against the back and side walls. It was probably a fire hazard. 

We were all squeezed in to be reminded of our mortality. “Remember that you are dust,” the pastor said as the sign of the cross was smudged on my forehead, “and to dust you shall return.” Stark and sobering.

Six thousand miles away, there were believers in Ukrainian bomb shelters. At the time, the brutal invasion had only been a week old. “We survived yet another horrible night,” reported the archbishop of the Cathedral of the Resurrection in Kyiv on the first Sunday of Lent – the introspective season of denial leading up to Easter. 

“But after night, there comes day, there is morning,” he said. “After darkness, there comes light, just as after death there comes resurrection, which we all today radiantly celebrate!”

This has been the consistent Christian witness throughout time and proclaimed among all nationalities – across all borders and time zones and languages. 

Ash Wednesday is to remind us that we are mortal. Easter reveals that we, too, can experience everlasting life. 

Because of the relentless bombing, mothers, children, and the elderly had been sequestered underground in Kyiv. “The Church will come to the people,” said the archbishop. “Our priests will descend to the underground, they will descend to the bomb shelters, and there they will celebrate the Divine Liturgy.”

This statement of commitment became all the more vivid when I saw an unattributed photo of a young priest preparing to serve communion in a concrete bomb shelter. I could not help but think of the pastoral challenge for Ukrainian clergy responding to the needs of their flocks. Lent would be brutal.

Yet, this priest was just one of the inspirational and provocative images of love, commitment, and Ukrainian resilience displayed in the midst of this horrific geopolitical tragedy. 

• There was the photograph of the baby strollers left on the platform at a train station in Poland for soon-to-be-arriving refugees who would need them. 

• There was a short video clip on the evening news of two flamboyantly dressed-up entertainers dancing and singing with children in one of the subway bomb shelters. Sheer joy was the expression on the faces of the little ones. For just a fleeting moment, they were able to simply be kids rather than displaced war pawns living underground with no knowledge of when they can return home – or if they even still had a home. At the end of the performance, the children all got a small trinket. They were elated. 

• There are the internet videos of musicians playing in apartment basements and subterranean bomb shelters to lift the spirits of their neighbors. Vera Lytovchenko, a violinist for the Kharkiv Theater of Opera and Ballet, has given impromptu concerts for her neighbors. “In the cold, cramped basement, with nothing in the way of decoration except candles and yellow tulips, she has performed Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, and Ukrainian folk songs,” reported the New York Times.

“My music can show that we are still human,” she said. “We need not just food or water. We need our culture. We are not like animals now. We still have our music, and we still have our hope.”

One set of my maternal great grandparents migrated to the United States in 1875 from Ukraine. They moved here shortly after having been married in Odesa. Today, there are battleships off Odesa’s coast in the Black Sea. 

Right after the invasion began, a young Ukrainian couple were on the local news collecting blankets and jackets and socks to send to refugees. I noticed that their business was not far from my home. 

When I arrived, there were boxes of diapers stacked up in the front window of Grace’s Nutrition Market. Local people had been dropping supplies by the health food store in order to help the beleaguered victims of war. Greeted with warmth and a smile by the staff, I asked about the diapers. A kind woman asked if I wanted to see the rest of the operation. Moments later we were walking through the shop and then through a dimly lit storage area before she opened up the door to the back alley. As we walked out into the bright Texas sunlight, I almost burst into tears. About a dozen women of various ages were packing supplies around 10 folding tables. There was the sound of a vacuum-sealer as they diligently and faithfully packaged blankets and coats in plastic to be put in a shipping container on its way to Poland. This was a small and potent outpost of compassion. 

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” we are rightly reminded during Lent. At the same time, we are far more than dust. We are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. This life is filled with blessings and tragedy, as well as miracles, mystery, and beauty. “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers,” instructs the ancient scribe, “for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it” (Hebrews 13:2).

What I saw in the back alley was more than inspirational. I could barely hold back my tears. I watched with heartfelt appreciation as those volunteers poured their love into the work. 

As we walked back through the shop, I told my new friend that I felt so helpless as I watched the news and saw the lines of tanks and buildings destroyed by bombs. She looked in my eyes and said, “Don’t forget to pray. Prayer can move mountains.” I would never argue with her about that. 

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.

Hard Things

Hard Things

By Rob Renfroe

When I speak to churches about the problems dividing the United Methodist Church, I begin by saying, “If you are not aware of what I am about to tell you, it will be hard for you to believe. I’ll sound like an ancient astronomer trying to convince you the earth revolves around the sun when everyone is certain it’s the other way around. I’ll come across like the ‘lunatic’ of an earlier era proclaiming the world is round when everyone ‘knows’ it’s flat. Some things are hard to believe even though they are true.”

Then I describe to them the deeper issues that divide the UM Church. I tell them we are divided about the Bible. Over the years, there have been UM pastors who’ve made statements about how the Bible cannot be trusted to tell us God’s will and how they scoff at those of us who believe the Scriptures are the inspired word of God. I recount our differences about the work of the Holy Spirit and how many UM pastors have told me the Spirit is revealing new truths that contradict and override what the Bible teaches. 

I tell them about my conversation with a highly respected tall-steeple pastor who told me, “Rob, the Church created the Bible. So, we can re-create the Bible.” I tell them that worst of all we are divided on Jesus. Some of us believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life for all humankind. But we have a bishop who has warned us not to make an idol (a false God) out of Jesus. We have a UM seminary professor who told me, “God is wholesale; Jesus is retail,” meaning Jesus is just one of many religious teachers, not really different from Mohammad or Buddha. We had a UM seminary president who said if you feel a need to tell persons of other religions about Jesus, you don’t understand Jesus.

These are hard things to believe if you have been in your local church with a pastor who is faithful to the Scriptures, where you repeat the historic creeds and mean them, and where you pray for your nonbelieving neighbors to come to faith in Jesus. These are hard things to believe, but they are true.

Now, there is another hard truth we must accept. The Commission on General Conference delayed General Conference for political reasons. The Commission did not simply disappoint us by deciding not to hold General Conference. They chose not to hold General Conference and they chose not to do the work that could have made it possible.

Trusted members of the Commission report that the international delegates who spoke up during the deliberations concerning General Conference argued that it could be held and that delegates from around the world could find a way to travel to the United States. Those who argued otherwise were primarily white, American, and liberal (see article on page 16). 

It’s hard to believe that a desire to sabotage the Protocol of Grace and Reconciliation through Separation was the reason many Commission members voted against holding General Conference. But it’s even harder not to. The Episcopal Church, the Lambeth Conference of Bishops, the United Methodist Women, and the Wesleyan Covenant Association are all holding large in-person meetings this spring and summer with delegates coming from around the world. 

Where there is a will to meet there is a way. Where there is a will to undermine the one solution that would have led to a just and orderly resolution of the problems that divide us – well, the institutional members of the Commission found a way. Ironically, the Commission announced at its March meeting the formation of a task force to explore the possibility of a hybrid General Conference in 2024. This change of heart comes too late and shows what the Commission thought impossible could have been done a year ago.  

Again, I know that’s hard to believe for persons in their local churches who assume all church leaders are honest, fair, and well-meaning. But the truth is the earth revolves around the sun, the world is round, and power politics led to the postponement of General Conference. 

Here’s something else that will be hard to believe. There will be some bishops who will mislead the church and many pastors who will deceive their congregations in the coming months about the future of the UM Church. As local churches consider their options for leaving, they will be told they are overreacting. Some bishops and pastors will tell United Methodists in the pews that “there is no reason to depart because nothing will change – the UM Church will continue to be a big tent denomination that respects all persons and all points of views. You and your church will never be made to do anything you do not want to do.” If it’s hard for you to hear this, I’m sorry. But statements claiming there will be no change in the local church are untrue. And many who say these things know they are.

If you believe the progressives (who will be in control of the denomination when many traditionalists leave) will allow you to deny “justice” to same-sex couples who want to be married in your church; if you believe liberals will permit your annual conference to discriminate against partnered gay persons who feel called to be pastors; if you believe a bishop will never send a progressive pastor to your congregation to make you into “a real Methodist church,” then you are in denial. 

The progressives have told us who they are. They have been open about their agenda. And after the Commission’s decision to cancel a General Conference that could have allowed us to go our separate ways in peace, it is obvious that some church leaders will do anything necessary to reach their goal of a woke liberal denomination, even if it means harming traditional churches.

It’s time to believe hard things. And it’s time to do a hard thing: Prayerfully consider leaving the UM Church. I hope you and your congregation will join other traditional Wesleyans in the Global Methodist Church. It may take time to do that. We have hard decisions in front of us. My prayer is that traditionalists will step into a better day with others who believe in the Lordship of Jesus, the truth of the Scriptures and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. 

Rob Renfroe is the president and publisher of Good News. 

Destination with God

Destination with God

By Shannon Vowell

I like to use Google maps on my phone.

I type in the address of where I need to go, and, presto! A map appears right there in the palm of my hand, along with step-by-step instructions for getting from where I am to where I want to be. I can even press a button to translate those instructions into spoken directions, so that I can drive while my phone tells me what to do next.

My children are not nearly as bedazzled as I am by this technology. They have grown up with it, and find it almost incomprehensible that when I was their age I wrote down directions on a piece of paper and/or used a folding map to get from point A to point B. And that I did this (and everything else in life) without use of a phone – unless I stopped and used a “payphone” (like in the old Superman movies).

My husband can’t use Google maps like I do. That’s because he has disabled the automatic location function on his phone. A former military officer, he is not comfortable with apps tracing his every move, and being “off grid” is, to him, worth the trouble of needing to stop for directions occasionally. Notice that his phone is useless for finding his way because Google maps (or any digital direction service) only works if the phone’s location can be pinpointed as a starting point.

In that respect, navigation hasn’t changed from the paper map days. You  have to know your beginning point before you can accurately figure your trajectory. That’s true whether you’re punching an address into a phone or looking for a dot on a paper map. Knowing where you want to go is only half the equation. You have to know where you’re starting from, too. And no matter how you figure the navigation, the only place you can begin from is where you are.

Maps and the Maker. Scripture tells us that we are, in our deepest and most eternally stable core, creations of the Creator – made in the image of the One True God. Scripture describes God making us, breathing life into us, calling us “very good,” giving us work and purpose, as well as form. We were made by God. And we were also made like God – in God’s image.

Therefore, we cannot know ourselves unless we know the One in whose image we are made. And we cannot figure out either where we are or where we’re wanting to go until we have a basic grasp of whose we are, for two reasons. 

First, because God’s is the only Way that reliably meets us right here (wherever “here” may be).

Second, because God’s Way is also the only route that reliably takes us home to Heaven by way of fulfillment, purpose, and peace.

Therefore, pinpointing our present location on the map of our lives – as well as charting the course of our new beginning – must commence with a review of the One True God.

Mapping for Accuracy. When I was a new Christian, I was confused by people who talked about God as if he had a split personality. The “angry God” of the Old Testament was someone distinct from “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” some insisted. They rejected the former as a harsh, condemning Angry Man, and embraced the latter as a kind of Embodiment of Universal Affirmation. Old Testament God: Bad; New Testament God: Good. 

Say, what?!

During my husband’s years as a Naval Flight Officer, he navigated planes’ routes based on fixed points outside the plane. Sometimes those points were geographic elements – a mountain, a bridge, a light house. Over open ocean, those points were stars. Accurate calculations for a flight path depended on these fixed points.

The quickest way to get off track was to “buy a bad fix” – to calculate based on wrong information regarding those fixed points. Buy a bad fix, and there’s no way to arrive at your destination.

When we think of God as a splintered, schizophrenic character, we are buying a bad fix. We can’t possibly navigate accurately based on bad data about God.

Further, misunderstandings in this category create all kinds of traps for us. Denying the truth of God’s identity as revealed in Scripture sets us up to trip over everything else. Careful reading corrects us. When we read carefully, we find there is no “good cop/bad cop” paradigm in the person of God. Rather, there is seamless wholeness and holiness, manifested across the eons. 

God is “One” and every person of the Godhead is present in every action. Over the next few issues of Good News, I will look at Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to better understand this incredible Triune Lord in whose image we were made. 

In this issue, we begin with Abba. Why? As modern people, we often have serious “authority issues.” We have learned to question rules and rule-makers, because they have proven themselves untrustworthy. To receive the peace our Heavenly Father has in mind for us, we need to surrender to the perfect Sovereign who made us and loves us. He is wise and wonderful and faithful forever!

God’s consistent goodness has to be the fixed point from which we calculate our flight path, or we will arrive at inhospitable places ad infinitum.

Compass Corrective. Jesus called God, the Father, ‘‘Abba.” Roughly translated into modern English, Abba means “Daddy.” The Son’s words and works reveal the Father in all his multi-faceted glory: infinite strength alongside infinite tenderness motivated by infinite love.

But it’s important to acknowledge a common navigational error at this point: mistaking our Father in Heaven for a large-scale version of our own fathers. At their best, earthly fathers point us to God through their love, their strength, their protective instincts, and their faithfulness as providers. But sometimes our experience of earthly fathers renders ludicrous the idea of a Good Father in Heaven.

Being abandoned by an earthly father makes one suspicious of the supposed faithfulness of God. Being abused by an earthly father makes one suspicious of God’s purported kindness. Watching an earthly father repeatedly make stupid mistakes or fall victim to addiction makes one skeptical of the very notions of wisdom and purity – and therefore unable to accept that God is both perfectly wise and perfectly holy.

Sadly, some of us hear “Father” and instinctively flinch – or run.

If your experience of earthly fatherhood has left you wounded and cynical, I encourage you to resist the urge to assume God the Father is just like your dad.

God’s version of paternity is flawless and faithful. And God persists in patiently seeking the healing and welfare of all of His children – including you.

Sharon Vowell is a writer, teachers, musician, and mom. She is a frequent contributor to Good News. This is the first of three installments on the Trinity from her new workbook, Beginning … Again: Discovering and Delighting in God’s Plan for Your Future available on Amazon.