Stories that Shaped my Faith
Discovering God the Good, Good, Father
by Tyler Klatt | October 4, 2018
Choose and Choose Again is a mosaic of personal stories collected by author and Covenant pastor J. Kevin Butcher, who founded Hope Community Church in Detroit, Michigan. The stories he shares (as well as his own testimony) display the complexities of people who live their lives as prisoners and prostitutes, as well as those who are lawyers and in business. Throughout this book, Butcher tells of his experiential encounter with the “true, deep, wild love of Jesus.”
In one chapter titled “Call Me Abba,” Butcher writes about the role of a father figure. He shares about his own father, giving testament to the ways in which he was wonderful, as well as some of the areas where he missed the mark. In this chapter, Butcher remarks that “my dad’s face became God’s face.” The expectations his earthly father had for him became the expectations he thought God had for him. Where his earthly father failed to show up, Butcher sensed God’s absence as well.
I’ve had my own struggles with the image of God the Father. My mother had me when she was seventeen. My biological father, also a seventeen-year-old kid, could not handle the pressure and responsibility of taking care of a child, and by the time I was three, I fell into the category known as “fatherless.” When I was four, my mom met a man who would become my stepfather for the next sixteen years. It was this stage of my upbringing that shaped what I believed the titles of “father” or “dad” to mean. They were held not by the person who helped create me but by the one who helped shape me. My stepfather was the one who was present, who taught me and challenged me to grow.
Yet looking back, I realize that during those sixteen years, not once did I address him as “Dad.” Something held me back, something that did not feel right when I thought about using that word. It was almost as though my mouth could not form the syllable and my brain could not grasp the concept.
When I got older, I committed my life to Christ. Attending summer camp, I heard speakers, counselors, and other staff talk about God as a father. I specifically remember a time when we were singing “Good, Good Father,” by Chris Tomlin, and for some reason my body, my brain, my being would not let those words come out of my mouth. I sang, “You’re a good, good _____, it’s who you are.” Was the face of my “father” becoming the face of God?
I am learning not to compare the imperfectness of people to a perfect God.
Fast-forward to my early twenties. I came home one day to the news that my parents were getting a divorce. It was a nasty situation and it ended up exiling this idea of “father” even further from my life. Like most children of divorce, I immediately wondered, “What did I do wrong?” and, “Am I not good enough?” This man who had taught me so much, who cared for me so much, didn’t care enough to stay.
For the next few years I was angry and bitter at both of these earthly men who were supposed to be my dad—and also at God the Father, who I was supposed to believe in. Why could I not keep a father around? That anger turned into resentment, and that resentment led me to believe that I didn’t need a dad, after all. In my mind I thought God the Creator was there for me, loved me, and took care of me—but God the Father was not. He seemed absent. I figured he, too, didn’t love me enough to stick around.
When I picked up Butcher’s book, I was drawn into the real, raw, and broken stories. The book was a mirror and I was staring at myself. When I read the chapter titled “Call Me Abba,” I felt God calling me to step into the ring with him. I spent days, weeks, and months unpacking, re-evaluating, and breaking down walls. The faces of my dads truly had become the face of God. I had been comparing my relationship with God to the lack of relationships I had had with men who were supposed to show me what it meant to be a good father.
And finally I realized that God does not have the face of my father. Whether it is a father, mother, or parents in general, I am learning not to compare the imperfectness of people to a perfect God. He is the ultimate example of a loving parent. God’s presence, love, and commitment to his children is unlike anything we will ever experience from another person.
Today I can truly say that I have a Father and his name is God.