For some people, Father’s Day means cookouts and ties and cards with cheesy dad jokes. But for other people, Father’s Day is a paper cut to the heart . . . a reminder of someone who was absent or distant or harsh or unavailable.
In Scripture, one of the most prominent metaphors for God is as a Father. But if your father wasn’t someone who loved you and delighted in you and cherished you and sacrificed for you, how can you believe in a heavenly Father who shows that kind of love to his children?
I’m grateful for a dad and a mom who have faithfully reflected God’s love to me since they laid eyes on my scrunched-up, purplish face in Edward Hospital all those years ago. But recently I experienced a new angle of a father’s love . . . one that I hope will give you a glimpse of the Father-love of God, whether you had a good dad or not.
My dad became a judge recently, and when the whole family was in town, he took us to the courthouse on a Saturday morning so we could see where he worked. As I sat at the elevated judge’s bench overlooking the witness stand and jury box, I felt the weight of this position—the honor of it, but also the responsibility. In this role, Dad carries the task of faithfully upholding the law, of determining the fates and futures of those who walk through the doors. The judge’s robe, it turns out, is a heavy one.
Once we’d visited the courthouse, Dad invited us to see his chambers. After going through various layers of airport-level security, we headed to the bowels of the courthouse, into his judge’s chambers. As I entered the room, I was struck by the stately mahogany desk and the shelves lined with regal-looking law books. My mind scrambled to reconcile the dad who plays backyard basketball and tells fourth-grade-boy jokes with the dad who is now referred to as “Your Honor.”
As we were about to leave his chambers to head home, a familiar combination of white and pink on Dad’s credenza caught my eye. It looks like . . . no, it can’t be. But sure enough, it was the familiar cover of my memoir. Amid all the leather-bound legal books and important case files was a copy of his daughter’s book—about blind dating, of all things. It was there on the edge of his table along with printouts of a few of my blog posts, available for perusal by anyone who entered his chambers.
As the rest of my family filed out, I stood with my feet nailed to the ground, gripped by the love of a judge with the heart of a dad.
And in that moment, awash with my father’s love, I had a vision of another Judge, another Dad.
Behind the Curtain
In the Old Testament, the Holy of Holies was the sacred place in the Temple where God dwelled. It was a place so holy that only the high priest was allowed to enter—and if he entered at the wrong time or in the wrong way, he would be struck dead.
Most of us can grasp the idea of a holy God—a powerful judge who inspires awe. And he is certainly that. But that moment in my dad’s chambers, I got a glimpse of a God who not only is holy and powerful but also has photos of his children plastered all over the walls.
Go ahead—peek behind the curtain of the Holy of Holies and look around. See on the wall there? It’s a framed picture of you, hanging there for everyone to see. And over on the refrigerator . . . there’s the picture you drew for him—the one you crumbled up and threw away but he salvaged from the trash. And the gift you gave him—the one you thought was so meager and unworthy? It’s sitting prominently on his shelf so whenever his friends come in, he can tell them all about it.
As a beloved child, you have access to the Judge. And this isn’t just a distant, holy God; he’s a Father who loves you and delights in you and is proud of you. He’s a Father who invites you into the sacred space of the Holy of Holies, into his very presence—a place you would never have the right to go without that privileged relationship.
This Father’s Day, regardless of what your earthly father is like, I want you to know that you have a Father who loves you unconditionally, sacrificially, with abandon. Even as you tremble to approach the bench, remember that the judge is also your Father. And that your picture is hanging on his wall.