Since the month of June is Fathers Day month, I'm thinking about spiritual fathers. I've been blessed to have some. My life has been forever enriched by being "spiritually fathered" by these people of God.
So this month, I would like to share a few of them with you. But first, let's think together about "spiritual fathering."
In his first letter, the fatherly aged apostle John penned a tenderhearted passage on the growth stages in a believer's life. He describes for us spiritual childhood, then young adulthood, and finally fatherhood:
I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 1 John 2:12-14 ESV
Did you notice that he repeats two times the exact same description of the "father stage" of spiritual growth?
"...you know Him who has been from the beginning."
"You know GOD in His pure Person...the great I AM, the Burning Bush God, Jehovah!" Nothing else is needed...nothing else distracts. There's a total focus on the Ever-Present God and what HE is doing...especially in the lives of people.
Henri Nouwen, in his wonderful book The Return of the Prodigal Son talks about how we are each ultimately called to be the "father (or mother)" in others' lives.
...my final vocation is indeed to become like the Father and to live out His divine compassion in my daily life...every son and daughter has to choose to step beyond their childhood and become father and mother for others. It is a hard and lonely step to take... Return of the Prodigal, p121.
Nouwen talks about three ways to truly compassionate fatherhood: grief, forgiveness, and generosity. All three of these characteristics require a heart completely empty of self-seeking, a heart that steps over our own stuff and pours itself out for others. This is where the Father seeks to take His children as they "grow up" in Him.
I love the image of "stepping over our own stuff." It has helped me many a time in conversation or in situations to remember that as I mature in God I must be willing to step over this conflict, that slight, the other hurt, etc. That's the way of the Father...and the way of fathers and mothers who walk in His way on behalf of His children:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV
Do you have any spiritual fathers (or mothers, for that matter) in your life? If so, thank God and imitate their faith! If not, ask God for some...they are treasures! And then grow to become one!
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7 ESV
*More in the coming posts about some spiritual fathers, both dead and alive :)