Our daughter needed to study calculus as part of her bachelor degree requirements. She liked math and was good at it so she happily signed up for the course. The problem was that the only class that fit into her timetable was the class her father taught. She had hoped to avoid that scenario, still being a teen and all.
One day she needed to ask a question about something she didn’t understand. Her father carefully explained the concept covering two blackboards with figures and diagrams, then turned and asked her if she understood.
“What? Oh…” she said looking up from the page she had been doodling on. “Um, sorry. I heard you go into your lecturing voice and I tuned you out.”
The students who didn’t know about their relationship gasped in shock. Those that knew the prof was her dad laughed.
This story came back to me today as I was thinking about relating to the many facets of God. Our daughter was relating to the man at the front of the class as the dad who had been responsible for setting limits through some chaotic years. In that moment she wasn’t relating to him as a valuable teacher and missed what he had to offer. (All was not lost. That was the year she gained respect for his skills and actually changed direction to become a math education major herself.)
Many metaphors describe the way God wants to relate to us; He presents himself as creator, king, father, bridegroom, shepherd, healer, provider, lamb, mother, brother, law-giver, judge, protector and many more. Someone once asked me, “Who does God want to be for you now?”
I didn’t understand the question at the time. God is God. Holy Other. Unchanging. There is no one like him. What do you mean?
Since then I have come to know God as my loving heavenly father, Jesus as a brother and the Holy Spirit as a comforter. I’ve known him as a teacher and healer and encourager and even as an intimate friend who shares confidences. What I am still learning is how to be flexible when he wants to show me another aspect of himself.
Lately I have been spending time praying about some heavy matters brought to my attention. I feel privileged to be trusted, and I do remember praying “break my heart with what breaks yours,” but I’ve been feeling the weight of it lately. I know the joy of the Lord is my strength but I must have set it down somewhere and I’m having trouble remembering where I put it. Before I fell asleep I asked for an understanding of joy, because I don’t know how to make myself feel something I don’t feel.
It snowed last night. When I looked out my window this morning I saw the berries on the mountain ash tree covered with little tipped white piles of snow that looked like gnome hats. I ran out in my robe and slippers and took a photo, not caring what the neighbours digging out their vehicles thought. The mountain ash hats just looked silly. They reminded me of little red Smurfs. I smiled.
“There it is,” he said.
“There is what?”
“Joy. My joy. It’s been here all along. You just weren’t expecting it or looking for it.”
I need to shift my thinking and learn to relate to God as someone who has tremendous joy in spite of seeing selfish people misuse their authority and abuse the vulnerable. He knows how all this ends, and it ends well.
I remembered a passage of scripture that talks about Jesus being exuberant and full of joy because of his Father’s plans. This scene happened after he commissioned 70 people to go out ahead of him and declare the kingdom of God by healing the sick and casting out demons.
The seventy came back triumphant. “Master, even the demons danced to your tune!”
Jesus said, “I know. I saw Satan fall, a bolt of lightning out of the sky. See what I’ve given you? Safe passage as you walk on snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault of the Enemy. No one can put a hand on you. All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you—that’s the agenda for rejoicing.”
At that, Jesus rejoiced, exuberant in the Holy Spirit. “I thank you, Father, Master of heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the know-it-alls and showed them to these innocent newcomers. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.
“I’ve been given it all by my Father! Only the Father knows who the Son is and only the Son knows who the Father is. The Son can introduce the Father to anyone he wants to.”
(Luke 10 :17-22 The Message)
I put on my warm clothes and high boots and went out into the dazzling light of the day, plowing through white powder nearly up to my knees. I listened to the distant birds, and the babbling brook. I stood under showers of tiny diamonds as the snow crystals fell from high branches in the sunlight. Today I am learning who God wants to be for me now. Jesus is introducing me to a happy Creator – my strength and my joy.