There is a wonderful little video produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and published on YouTube and other places, titled Earthly Father, Heavenly Father. It details a day in the life of a father and makes the parallel to our Heavenly Father. It ends with a quote that I have long cherished,
“Of all the titles of respect and honor and admiration that are given to Deity, He has asked us to address him as Father”
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
I have long thought about that quote and what it means. The fact that we could use so many titles or terms of endearment for our God — He is Almighty, Omnipotent, Omniscient, the Great Creator, the Supreme Being in the entire known Cosmos — and yet he asks us to call him Father. That certainly teaches us a great deal about the nature of God and how he wants us to view him in our lives. But it also teaches us a great deal about Fatherhood and how important fathers are in our lives and how important we are as we become fathers ourselves.
I have written before about the things I have learned about the nature of God since becoming a father, but I wanted to revisit this idea and discuss a few aspects of Fatherhood that have impressed me as I have been raising my son, and the things he has taught me about being both a Father and a Son.
My son lately has been having a hard time sleeping at night, he wakes up scared in the middle of the night. We believe he is having bad dreams and last night was particularly rough as he woke up three different times throughout the night. As a father it is hard because you want it all to go away, you want your son to be happy all of the time, and there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop the bad dreams. All I can do is sit with him and hold him and help him get back to sleep.
I was stuck with the thought last night, as I was laying with my son, that he has such an utter trust in me as his father. Despite everything that I do and everything I am, despite all of the times a yell at him and enforce the rules and become the disciplinarian, he still turns to me when he is scared and upset and crying. I believe that is what Christ was referring to when he commanded us to become like a child. And prophets have counseled us to become “as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).
I would like to start a series of posts on different aspects of the Gospel and life that I am learning about as I interact with my son. Things he is teaching me about the nature of being a Son to my Father in Heaven, and things I am learning about how Father views His children and interacts with us in our lives. I do not believe it is by accident or coincidence that He chooses to be called Father. I firmly believe He is trying to teach us a very valuable lesson in the eternal nature of families.
- My son says “I’m sorry” and then will do the same thing again, only to come back with an “I’m sorry” again.
How often do I tell the Lord that I’m sorry, only to go and do the thing again. I try to teach my son that being sorry means not doing the thing again, but life is about learning and growing, we do make mistakes repeatedly and need to repent and be forgiven repeatedly. My son is no different. And I am no different. How often have I repented of the same sins and shortcomings in my life. How many times have I prayed and plead with my Father in Heaven to help me overcome some weakness and vowed to never make the same mistake again, only to repeat the same prayer the very next night?
As we go through life we will not become perfect without our Father in Heaven, and it will not happen in this earthly portion of our existence. We will make mistakes, and will make the same mistakes repeatedly. About the best we can hope for is to recognize our mistakes early and quickly repent of them and work to prolong the time between making the same mistake again. My son is still very young, he will be four next month, and he is still learning about the world around him and his place in it. He makes the same mistakes again and again and needs to be reminded by us as his parents of what proper behavior is. We need to tell him repeatedly how he needs to act and not act when playing with his toys or with others. We try to help him understand the reasons behind some of our rules — We don’t throw toys because they can hurt others or break things and then we wouldn’t have them anymore and that would be sad — but it doesn’t always make a difference. Even if we believe we have explained the reason and that the reason makes sense, he does not always get it.
And I look at my own behavior and my own communication with my Father in Heaven. How often does he remind me of the commandments and covenants that I have made? How often does he try to explain the reasons behind the commandments? It seems to me, as I’m sure I have written before, that there is really one commandment — “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). All other commandments are given to us to help us keep that commandment. They help us develop the habits and attitudes to become perfect like our Father in Heaven in order to enjoy a place in His Celestial Kingdom. (D&C 78:7).
But this also teaches me something amazing about my Father in Heaven — that He is infinitely loving and patient. Where I will sometimes become frustrated with my son, asking him why he continues to do something that I have already told him not to do, our Father in Heaven is a perfect Father and stands with open arms always willing to let us repent and try again, no matter how many times we have repented before. It does not matter to him how often we have made the same mistakes, as long as each time we are honestly seeking his forgiveness and truly repenting.
2. Watching my son do something and I know it will hurt him and I warn him, but he does it anyway and does get hurt.
Our Father sees and knows more than we do, He has experienced things. He warns us and tries to protect us from harm. We do not always see what He sees, but want to do our own thing in our own way. We do not see the imminent danger we have been warned about and so we continue anyway, ignoring the warning from our Father in Heaven or his servants, the prophets or our local leaders, and then we will inevitably get hurt.
Again, this shows how infinitely good our Father in Heaven is. How easy it is for me to tell my son “I told you so”, when he does what I warned him against and get hurt just as I warned him. But our Father never does. He is always ready with an open hand to comfort us in our troubles, to welcome us back, to pick us up and brush us off and help us get back on our feet. Even when our falling and getting hurt was our own fault, He is there to help us recover. And He patiently explains that he had foreseen the danger and that if we will trust Him in the future we can avoid other painful situations.
I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I love my Father in Heaven. I am eternally grateful to Him for all that He has done and continues to do for me. We do not have a God who sits in the heavens and merely watches mankind flounder their way through mortality, but we have a God who is the Father of our souls and takes a passionate and personal interest in our lives. If we find that God is far from us, it is never that he has separated Himself from us, but always that we have separated ourselves from Him. But, he is constantly waiting, as the Father of the Prodigal Son, to welcome us home with open arms, with new robes and rings and a feast of the fatted calf. He will bless us and help us as much and as often as he can, while keeping the end goal in sight – that he wants us to grow and learn and become like Him. Which means he will not always take every bad thing immediately away from us. But that is a subject I would like to cover next time.
I love my Father and I love my son and I love that I am allowed to learn more about the great eternal nature of Fatherhood and Priesthood through this firsthand experience of being a father to my son and that I can help him learn and grow and become the man that I know he can be and that his Father in Heaven expects him to be.