“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
“Father God… father me.”
The words have come to me a lot recently and I don’t know why. Whether I am working at a computer, doing chores like washing up dishes or taking a brief walk in the autumnal gladed forest near my home – I am voicing the phrase in my mind. I have found a particular need to say it when injecting insulin at night. Giving yourself an injection can be a lonely experience – the responsibility to get the dose exactly correct, with the accurate measurement each and every time, is tiring and especially after 40-plus years of doing it. So this prayer call in my heart is not a catchphrase but a weary shout.
“Father God… father me.”
I’ve been wandering off the main track in my faith of late, getting distracted by other things. Finding myself in frames of mind and worldly attitudes that contradict who I really am. And what has really frustrated me is that when I’ve uttered that erstwhile prayer, sometimes several times per day, there’s been no immediate response. I’ve carried on life stuff on the outside but on the inside I’ve been restless and felt alone. My dad died years ago. My mentor, a father figure, also died. But I’ve felt a need for a father.
“Dig deep, dig deeper.”
God said that to me many times last year and then one day recently, he reminded me of it. I gave a metaphysical shrug of my shoulders at the reminder at first – yes, dig, I know…. Then I had a strong sense that if I wanted to find the treasure of sonship to a heartfelt level; I needed to not dig a little: the Lord is calling me to get on my knees and claw the ground. Remove the dust by hand and pour myself into the place where he is. Dig deep in His Holy Spirit and Word, again and again. Stop being distracted. In particular, go deeper.
I am sitting on my sofa at home with my little boy next to me. He’s just asked me to assemble a robot spider. It’s in pieces and he’s given me the task of working out the simple ABC engineering.
“It may take me a while to do this,” I say quietly. I stare at the photo of the toy on the box. There are no instructions and I’ve got to figure it out. Already I can hear the voice from the past haunting me: ‘You’re not practical’.
People have different experiences of fathers. My own dad was an unusual man and he had some definite strengths and wonderful characteristics. I miss in particular sitting in restaurants in France with him, talking about the culture there, and dining on fine food: moules, towers of seafood platters, sole in butter sauce, bowls of cider and savoury crepes, eating rare steaks before skiing by torchlight at night… moments from my childhood that will never be replayed, since he died a long time ago.
Dad used to tell me, on more than one occasion, that I wasn’t practical. I’m sure he didn’t think through the consequences of saying it and he was making a casual observation. We can all say the wrong thing at times and I know I’ve made many such mistakes. Even so, it was a negative verdict, which has affected my confidence when picking up tools for domestic projects at home over the years. My wife could testify to the fact – such as the time I lost my temper with an electric drill and used it to punch a wall again and again, sending slivers of brick flying across our lounge in our first apartment!
Suddenly a little voice interrupts my thoughts.
“You can do this. Don’t listen to your dad. Well, listen to him about some things but don’t listen to him on this. You can build this. You are able to do it.”
I turn, surprised to find my own boy facing me. He is six years old but I am listening to him, as though I was the little boy and he is the dad. So the son becomes the father of the man! I had told my kids a few weeks previously about why I struggled mentally with handyman work. My son remembers that and somehow understands my thoughts. He assumes authority and corrects the negative verdict his grandfather – whom he never met – once gave on my practical skills. I am touched to the core and hold him tight. I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit is speaking to me through my dear child.
God is using my own son now to father me.
He is a father looking for his son. A wealthy man, living in the finest of country estates. Day after day he paces the grounds and his eyes look towards the hills. Business matters still need to be attended to, and he is kept active by his staff and groundsmen who can’t stand his grim demeanour and try anything to distract him. He still makes any excuse to turn aside and stare out of the window from the top of the house, mind mapping the horizon.
And then one day he sees the tiny speck of a boy bent double through exhaustion and staggering across the landscape in the far distance, limping towards home. The father crashes down the stairs and bolts out of the front door. His gardener calls after him as he sprints in his bare feet down the country lane, and onward to the higher peaks further afield. His weeping eyes stare straight ahead and his smile beams with a rich warmth.
At last, he reaches the end of a long, winding road and his son appears at the end of it. The father, panting at the sudden marathon, lets out a loud shout and musters his energy to press on and reach his child.
But the boy’s words are lost as he is smothered in the bear-like grip of his papa’s embrace. They fall into each other’s arms.
God is the father who runs to you and me.