Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day and Spiritual Formation

The longest day of the year dawns bright and hot down here in South Florida--happy Summer Solstice (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere)! I have fathers on the brain, since it's Father's Day (in the U.S.), too. I'm not the only one; the Sojourner's blog has some great essays. I particularly loved the one by Jim Wallis, which talks about your Dayplanner/Calendar as a moral document (how you spend your time shows us your values) and the one by Brian McLaren, which talks about what he's learned from his father and what he learned from his children.

I know how lucky I am to have emerged from an intact family, to have a mom and a dad who continue to love each other, and continue to love my sister and me. I grew up in the 1970's and saw plenty of wrecked families. I've always wondered how people who come out of those wrecked families, especially those with absent or abusive fathers, react to the idea of God as a Father.

Even though I have a good relationship with both of my parents, I'm not crazy about the idea of God as Parent (of either gender). I think that God as Parent is an infantilizing metaphor. If God is a Dad (or so much more rarely, a Mom), then it follows that we're children, and too often, we see that as a reason for inactivity. But God needs us to be active in the world. I'd go further and say that God is counting on us. I much prefer the idea of God as partner. God can be the Senior partner; I'm cool with that.

Of course, I see the value of viewing God as a loving parent, but I'd love for us to expand our metaphors for God. I'd also love us to take our view of God, and see if it could have impact on our own lives. How might our parenting change, if we used God as the parenting model? How might we change our creative lives, if we used God as model? Maybe we'd be more forgiving, in both instances. Maybe we'd look at all that we create and call it "Good" and "Very Good," as in the first Genesis story (yes, there's more than one Genesis story--go read the early chapters of Genesis again).

On this Father's Day, I plan to call my own Dad, to say thanks. I plan to write my father-in-law, to say thanks. I plan to pray for a world where fathers are there to shape their children in positive ways. I plan to pray for fathers everywhere.

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