It was a week ago or more that I watched a program honoring the life and music of country music legend, Merle Haggard. In attendance were his three sons, Marty, Noel, and Ben. The host of the show asked the oldest, Marty, “Who was Merle Haggard to you?” Marty replied, “That’s like asking Jesus who God is to Him, He was His Father. Merle was my Dad.”
That continues to gnaw at me on a deep level. On a worldwide scale Merle Haggard was famously known as Merle Haggard, but to his sons, his children, he was…Dad.
My mom told me a story that struck her as she watched the parade after the inauguration of our 45th President in January. Donald Trump’s son, Barron, saw something that he wanted his dad to see but his dad, who was standing next to him, was in discussion with a man who looked to be a general dressed in his impressive uniform. Barron started tapping his dad on the shoulder to get his attention, completely unimpressed and uninhibited by the man in uniform…he wanted his dad’s attention, he wanted his dad to turn around and look. This wasn’t about disrespect, it was a picture of a child trusting their relationship with their Dad. Barron continued tapping – tap, tap, tap – and soon the President turned around to see what his son needed, at which point Barron pointed off camera with a big grin.
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus in Matthew 18:3
I once read that God as a name can be used in any fashion we wish until we come to see Him through Christ. That’s when all the falsities and facade’s drop off. It may take a while for all the muck & mire to fall from the eyes of our hearts, but it is only in Christ that we truly see the Father. Jesus says as much in John chapter 14 verse 9: Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. As it was so it continues to be. Until we see Christ we cannot know God as Father. We may use the word Father but it comes not from our true hearts unless and until we see Christ. And this, oh brothers and sisters, this is not something we do! The mystery that goes beyond human language and even human control must be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.
In Andrew Murray’s book, The Holiest of All, which has been the main focus for me since last fall, he writes (with regards to Hebrews 6:16-18): The oath of God plainly proves that the thing He seeks above everything is – faith; He wishes to be trusted (emphasis mine.) He goes on: He is ready, He longs, as God, Himself to work in us all that He has promised. He cannot do this except as we open our hearts to Him, and yield ourselves in stillness and surrender for Him to do His work. Until this faith takes possession of us, we are always seeking to do His work, and we hinder Him. Faith teaches us in deep humility and dependence, in meekness and patience, to place ourselves in God’s hands, to make way for Him, and to wait His time. Faith opens the whole heart and life in expectation and hope. Then God is free to work; faith gives Him His place as God, and honours Him; and He fulfills the promise, Him that honoureth Me, will I honour. And a little while later he writes: He knows how little our darkened hearts trust Him; His promises are so large, so divine, so heavenly, that we cannot take them in.
My darkened heart has trusted Him little. This I know. Yet this gnawing continues since hearing Marty Haggard. Like a level of rumbling hunger that has yet to be satisfied. I am being made aware of the tone of my heart and my life, so rebellious and angry and resentful and unforgiving. But these things don’t live in the Light, they can’t survive in an environment of Love. What we often don’t grasp of God’s all-consuming fire is that it’s not to destroy us, though it very much feels that way as that which the fire consumes has in themselves consumed us so we believe He’s taking our very lives. And yet He seeks not to destroy but to resurrect. He desires not death but Life.
There are quotes and articles out there that point to the way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice. It’s so poignant as I look back on my life and hear my inner voice, not as a blaming finger on my earthly parents, but that shameful and disappointed and absentee voice was laid over the top of God and that’s the lens through which I saw Him and in truth still tend to see Him. And yet this deep down gnawing is something I cannot escape. To know God as my Father, to trust in and rely on and lean my entire personality on the safety both now and forever more in Him as my Father, would alter every other lens I’ve ever had of anything or anyone. But more specifically…myself.
Jim Morrison of the Doors is quoted as saying, “The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”
Put a spiritual spin on that and…whoa!