As we were preparing to stay at my parents' house for a week, I was a little anxious about how things would go. I knew that my parents are used to living in a house with just two adults and one dog, not 8 people, 4 of the whom are children, 6 of whom are dealing with jet lag and the culture shock of re-entry. My dad and I emailed in advance about ways to prevent unnecessary conflicts, and he got bicycles for my children to have something familiar to go do and get out some of their energy. The kids loved going out and riding around the block. Unfortunately it rained most days so there were some times that we were stuck inside.
While some of my anxiety was just wanting this visit with my parents to go well since we don't get to be together very often, I realized that a large part of it is my very strong desire for my father to be happy with me. Even when the issue isn't about me, I feel like I need to fix the situation so that my dad is happy.
I am very blessed to have a father who loves me, tells me that he is proud of me, and hugs me. I know that many other people do not have that blessing. My earthly father has loved me well. He has often been a picture of grace to me and comforted me in difficult times. One of my favorite memories is when I was in high school and extremely anxious about taking the SAT. My dad told me that no matter how I did on that test, nothing could make him love me more, and nothing could make him love me less. I remember feeling such a tangible sense of relief from my anxiety during that conversation.
So why is it that I feel so anxious and such a great desire to make my dad happy even though I know he loves me? As I have taken some time to reflect on this, I realized that my anxiety is rooted in looking to my earthly father for the security, love and acceptance that only my Heavenly Father can ultimately provide. This is what my Heavenly Father has said to his children:
I have loved you with an everlasting love - Jeremiah 31:3
I rejoice over you with singing - Zephaniah 3:17
Nothing will separate you from my love for you in Jesus Christ - Romans 8: 38-39
There is no condemnation for you because you are in Christ Jesus - Romans 8:1
These words do not come from a Father who doesn't see my faults. This comes from a Father who knows me completely, knows that even my righteous acts are like filthy rags, but still chose to love me and bring me into his family. I don't deserve this gracious, sacrificial love. But he has chosen to clothe me with the righteousness of Jesus!
While you celebrate Fathers' Day, I want to remind you that no matter what your relationship with your earthly father is like, you can have this type of loving, joyous, fulfilling relationship with your Heavenly Father. Your father may be gone, he may be a lousy father, or he may be a very good, loving father like mine. But our Heavenly Father is the only One who will ever love us perfectly and forever. He is the Father described in Luke 15 who rejoices when the younger son returns home and goes out to the elder brother to invite him in to the party. He lavishes his love on his children! He smiles at you and me!