Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Our Father

When Jesus was asked how we should pray, He gave us His own prayer. We say it often, and it trips off the tongue - I can say it in three languages without thinking. But that's the thing - this is something that Jesus Himself gave to us. How can I say it without thinking? So over the next few days, I'm really going to be thinking about what the Lord's Prayer means to me.

Jesus taught us to call God our Father. Now, fathers have been getting some bad publicity recently - we hear about "feckless fathers", men who sleep around and leave their partners holding the baby, who don't support their families or provide any sort of role model for their children.

Politicians are beginning to get the message that the lack of a father figure (whether that be their own father or some other male role model) in so many young people's lives puts them at a huge disadvantage and is contributing in many areas to a general lack of respect, growing crime rates and the disintegration of society.

So what is it that a strong father figure gives us? Well, I couldn't even name all the ways in which my own father enriches my life - with his unconditional love and support, his advice and gentle guidance, his total interest in me as a person and his concern for my happiness and safety. When we were little, my mother could make us behave by threatening to tell my father when he got home about what we'd been doing. It was only as I got older that I truly appreciated what a complete softie he was - but the threats still worked, because I desperately wanted not to disappoint him.

My father sometimes says that, for all the sleepless nights and physical effort of looking after a small child's every need, it was easier to look after us as babies and small children than it is now. When a baby or small child cries, you can usually give it what it needs for comfort. When your adult children are in pain, you can't make it better, and I know that every time any of his children have been in difficulty of whatever kind, it has caused my father immense pain.

My father himself is an imperfect human being, but I see in him many of the qualities which lead us to call God our Father - the deep and lasting love, no matter what I do; the sorrow when I disappoint him; the way he feels my pain with me and would do anything to try to ease that pain; the way he leaves the line of communication open but doesn't force himself on me if we've had a disagreement; the way he welcomes me back with open arms when I'm ready.

I'm incredibly lucky to have the earthly father that I do - with all the imperfections he has, he shows me something of what it means to call God my Father.

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