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I Didn’t Realize He Was My Real Dad

One Sunday morning when I was in my early 20s, my mom came up to me after church and said something that stuck with me: “I notice you always pray to Jesus. You should think about calling God ‘Father.'”

I thanked her for her input but it agitated me a little. I was more comfortable keeping things on a first-name basis with the Lord and starting all of my prayers with “Dear Jesus.” I didn’t like the way it felt to address God as my male parental figure. I already had a father-son relationship and it was complicated.

My dad (pictured above) was gone a significant part of my childhood. Sometimes it was because he moved out, other times it was because he spent long stretches on the road as a truck driver. As a result, I grew to resent him, and calling God my “Father” meant that He shared a name with a man who had walked away from me. The musical notes behind my two fathers clashed and created a dissonant sound, so I avoided touching those piano keys altogether.

After the conversation with my mom, I tried to call God “Father” — even “Dad” — but it felt awkward and unnatural. Twenty years later, I still struggle with it, though I’m getting a little closer to embracing it fully, thanks to being the father of a baby boy and two girls.

If God loves me more than I love my kids, I think to myself, His love must be immeasurably beyond my imagination.

But I’m not the standard for fatherly love any more than a flashlight is the standard for the brightness of the sun. God is infinitely more loving than a biological or adoptive father could ever be.

He’s a dad who loved us before we arrived in this world, the one who “created [our] inmost being,” who “knit [us] together in [our] mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). We are His masterpieces, living reflections of His handiwork. We are worthy because He is the one who carefully sculpted our souls and bodies and then saved them even after we became His enemies (Romans 5:10).  

Regardless of what our earthly fathers may have done, our lives with our real Father are “adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who He is, and we know who we are: Father and children” (Ephesians 2:10, MSG). 

Because of that relationship, that kind of love, we can let our earthly fathers be flawed humans and embrace our divine Father whose love never changes (Psalm 27:10). Praise God that He alone sets the standard for what a real Dad is. 

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