Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers

I haven't blogged for a few days. I've been preoccupied with buying and setting up an above-ground swimming pool in our backyard. But it is up and ready now, and we are hoping to use it this afternoon, along with a cook out, to celebrate Fathers Day!

I want to reflect a bit on the whole issue of fathers/God/sexism/etc.

One of my foci this sabbatical is to reconnect with the Father, God. I finished reading one book on the issue and have others as well. But it is interesting how closely related are the experiences of our earthly fathers and our heavenly Father. In a very profound way, my lack of intimacy with my heavenly Father is directly related to my lack of intimacy with my earthly father. My dad is a good man. He worked hard in his life to provide for his family. He loves me; I know this, however he seldom actually says it. But he was never a very "touchy-feely" kind of person. And he is not a very emotionally approachable man. This is partly due to his generation, so I don't fault him for it. But because of the emotional distance I experience with my dad I am having a difficult time experiencing Abba intimately. I'm also finding it difficult to be emotionally approachable to my own sons.

In seminary (way back in the early 80's) it was in vogue to ameliorate the name "Father" to "Parent" or even "Mother." The theory being that to identify God as a male parent was a negative, especially for women. For some reason people got it in their heads that in order for women to feel good about themselves, they needed to have a God with Whom they could relate, genderally (I LOVE making up new words!). But this whole theory was dashed, for me, once I got away from the academy and started ministering with real, ordinary women out in the world, who, by and large, had no problem with God-as-Father. As I reflect on this, I'm wondering what kind of relationship those who put forth the theory of neutering God (or making Him "Mother") was with their earthly fathers. That would make a great study! My own theory (unsupported by data) is that those who felt/feel the strongest about this (that women will not feel good about themselves if God is referred to as "Father") had, themselves, an emotionally distant relationship with their fathers. Obviously, I'm an exception (obviously, I'm exceptional!). However, I did subscribe to this theory at first. I wonder. Something to ponder (pondering is good, especially during a sabbatical!).

One thing is clear, Jesus called God "Father" (or "Abba" which is the Aramaic equivalent to our "Daddy") and invited us to do so as well. There are qualities of God that reflect the qualities of motherhood, to be sure, just as there is the infamous "feminine side" in every man (more or less). But this is not sociology, God is not subject to our theories of gender-relationships. However, it is interesting to consider to what degree our relationships with our earthly fathers affect our relationship with our heavenly Father.

Happy Fathers Day!

1 comment:

NevilleV said...

Thanks for these thoughts. I am in seminary now (later in life...finally quit running) and I am more than a bit perplexed by the insistence of gender-neutral language and the enforcement of the same in papers, speech, etc. As I was reading this post I felt as if it was me doing the writing. Thanks again & I'll be back. I'm figuring out this blogging stuff, following others, etc. If you have a minute come on over to mine: www.neville-threerules.blogspot.com. Have a blessed day!