The Great Navigator

One of my most vivid childhood memories of my father is a game we used to play when we were out and about driving around.  He’d look at me, doubtful, from the driver’s seat.  “I don’t know if I remember how to get back,” he’d say.  “I forgot the directions.  Think you can help?”

I felt the monumental weight of the task at hand.  I sat up straighter.  “Okay,” I would tell him.  “At this next stoplight, you need to go right, okay?”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.” I’d pause just in case.  Although I was pretty sure he hadn’t forgotten – Dad never forgot anything – I  felt the weight of my responsibility as navigator.  If I’d told him to drive straight, he absolutely would’ve until I reversed our course.  “Yeah, yes.  Right at the stoplight.”

Step by careful step, I directed us home.  And when we pulled into the driveway, I sank back into the seat, proud.  We’d made it.

Of course my dad knew how to get home.  I could pretend to be a navigator precisely because he was there.

That childhood partnership with my dad echoes now in my day-to-day spiritual life.  I know I’m not really in charge, but God my father gives me a similar freedom to take the wheel, so to speak, and navigate through the day-to-day to get to where He wants me to be.  And I feel no fear in stepping forward because He is there. He lets me be His partner even though I have very little of use to offer.

And yet I’m aware that my view of God as a father is colored by the kindness and love I’ve received from my own.  Not everyone is so privileged.

I was fortunate enough to have a father who never met a stranger.  Everyone knows him and respects him.  Neighbors.  Men he’s worked with in the coal industry.  Hunters.  Give him the name of a family and he can rattle off decades of their history.  He works hard, too. He gets up at the same time every day to drive a truck delivering coal machinery and parts, and he’s never missed except to take a vacation or, once, to nonchalantly drive himself to the hospital mid-heart-attack.  He treats everybody the same: from his work superiors to the warehouse guys.  People depend on him for help and favors, and though it seems like the entire world has a claim on his attention, he always makes time for my mom and I.

But there are those with cruel fathers, harsh fathers, absent fathers.  Fathers who have caused hurt and pain and problems.  And for people who have suffered that, I imagine it must be hard to say the word “Father” and feel any warmth or connection.  As Father’s Day approaches, I find myself thinking of those people for whom the word might be a painful stumbling block.

To them, I say this: if earthly men have tainted the concept of fatherhood for you, allow God – God who swore to “carry [Israel], as a father carries His son” (Deuteronomy 1:31) to restore and redefine it.  Don’t permit that concept to be defined by those who have failed it; allow it to be renewed by the Love from whom our imperfect understanding of the role springs.

And if you are a father, please remember you aren’t alone.  Our world is vexed by so many definitions of what it means to be a “man” that most fathers could probably collapse under the weight of it.  But in the end, the greatest gift you can give to your children is to be as lovingly yourself as you can be – to show yourself to them in your kindness, your generosity, your integrity, your warmth.  God is still sitting in the driver’s seat, but for the time being he’s given the navigation up to you.  If you listen to Him and let Him be present, He won’t let you drive too far off course.

Enjoy the ride.  And Happy Father’s Day!

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6 responses to “The Great Navigator

  1. So glad I found you! May I reblog this? My husband and I both are very blessed to have had wonderful fathers growing up and into adulthood. This is very insightful–how do we help a generation of fatherless kids? Thanks again.

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    • You may reblog anything you like from here! 🙂 It’s a wonderful blessing to have a good father – and I think even for those of us (like my husband and I) who are childless, one of the best things we can do is to “adopt” fatherless kids in prayer, to be what we can be for them, and to be a blessing to them as much as possible. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was well-written and thouhtful. My relationship with my dad continues to adversely color my understanding of how I can or cannot approach the Heavenly Father, even many years after his death. I pray that someday I will feel safe and welcome to draw closer to Him, as now I can’t get past feeling that He just tolerates me.

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    • Thank you!

      I’m sorry to hear your relationship with your father caused that sort of struggle in you, though I understand it. My mother also struggled through her relationship with her father – over time, she was eventually able to feel safe and close to God the Father in spite of that. Given your prayers, I am absolutely certain that time *will* come for you. In the meantime, there are so many other aspects of God’s identity to embrace – I’m sure you’ll be blessed by those.

      But also be encouraged that you can tell God exactly how you’re feeling about it – Christ blessed the man whose cry was, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (9:24). Sometimes even the act of being able to say “I can’t get past feeling that He just tolerates me,” or praying that you’ll feel able to draw closer to God in time, is already a blessed act of intimacy and effort.

      I’ll be praying for you, too, that you’ll eventually feel that sense of safety and welcome – we all struggle in one way or another with wanting to feel closer than we are, and I’m glad you took the time to comment here.

      Liked by 1 person

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