The hearts of the fathers
I haven't gotten past the A.W. Tozer quote that Blake shared with us last week. It wasn't the first time I've heard it, but it cuts to the heart of a lot of things.
"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."
C.S. Lewis argued that what God thinks about us is infinitely more important than what we think about God, and ultimately I suppose that's true. But if I can grasp the idea that I am loved by, treasured by, delighted in by my Creator, that will shape my view of who God is. In turn, my view of who God is will shape every action and reaction of my life. So, what comes into your mind when you think about God? Hold that thought....
When I met with my foxhole this week, we talked about holiday plans. Some of the guys are traveling, some not. Some will be with extended family, some not. More than one had some trepidation as they approach spending time with their adult offspring. When my kids were small, I wanted them to learn to think for themselves, to stand up for what they believed to be right. They learned that lesson well, and I'm proud of them for that. One unforeseen side effect is they don't see the world exactly as I do. If we are not careful, conversations can devolve from a friendly discussion or a cordial exchange of ideas into something that feels like an interrogation, becoming an argument that no one is going to win. It's a tough balance. Too often, my attempts to listen, learn, and offer perspective turn into something that sounds critical, judgmental, and preachy. The result can be awkward, even hurtful. And apparently, I am not alone in that.
I came across this verse in my Advent reading this week and it struck a chord. These words are from the angel Gabriel, speaking to Zechariah about the miraculous coming of his son, John, who would grow up to be the forerunner of the Christ:
And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. -Luke 1:17
Two phrases got me: "turn the hearts of the fathers to their children" and "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord". John's job was to deliver people to Jesus who were ready to receive Him. Part of the strategy for accomplishing that was to teach fathers the importance of loving their children. Hmm... sounds kinda like what we've been hearing about convoying God's valuables, doesn't it?
I have two goals for my children, one eternal, the other selfish, though I believe it will contribute to the accomplishment of the first. (1) I pray every day that my children will know Jesus and have an ongoing, intimate relationship with Him. (2) I want my children to know beyond any doubt that they have always been and will always be loved and treasured by their dad.
You'd like my kids. They are smart, funny, friendly, interesting, caring, and they love Jesus. And they're grown, with their own life experiences and their own view of the world, which has been shaped by mine, but is distinctly different than mine. And that's OK. I'm proud of them. I will love them 'til I die, probably longer. I enjoy being with them and I want them to look forward to coming home. Navigating real conversations about real issues can be challenging. But I am committed to treating them with grace, respect, and love.
Back to the Tozer quote. Knowing that God is our Father, and knowing that our view of God often has roots in how we see our earthly fathers, what comes into your mind when you think about God? How will your kids answer that? I can't change the past, but I can take the next best step, whatever that may be. "... turn the hearts of the fathers to their children... to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."