A little while back, a friend asked me what having a child had taught me about God.
It’s a common question — and, given how frequently preachers refer to their children and experience of parenthood, seemingly quite legitimate.
Now, I’m sure my friend didn’t mean it this way but I object to the idea that my experience of having and beginning to raise a child should somehow give me special insight into God. As though I can now ‘get’ his being a father now that I’m a father or something.
I’ll be the first to admit that having a child has taught me — and will no doubt continue to teach me — all sorts of things.
On the one hand, our son’s desperate crying whenever he’s hungry is a pretty good picture of what we’re so often like with God. Even though he’s proven it again and again, we’re still infants who can’t seem to see past our immediate need or pain to trust God’s provision for us.
On the other hand, the fact that our son often “acts up” when he’s tired, hungry, or in pain, has reminded me that there’s a pretty big element of this to our sinning. We hurt others (more often than not) because we’re hurting ourselves.
So why do I object to the idea that having a child would teach me about God?
For one thing, this way of thinking would seem to exclude any non-parents from a true and deep understanding of God.
For another, the kind of father God the Father is, he is eternally. Unlike me, he never became a father. The difference between God’s fatherhood and mine can’t be erased.
And, ultimately, isn’t the only way to gain an ‘inside’ knowledge of God as father the way the Lord Jesus provides? As he invites us by his grace and achievement for us — in the power of the Spirit — to join him in calling God “Father”.
Perhaps I’m overreacting?