The following quote has been attributed to Mark Twain but there is serious doubt as to whether he is actually the author. Nonetheless it is a thought worth consideration.
“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”
I remember when I was fourteen. While I looked up to my father, I didn’t always listen to him very well. I remember one time he had taken me out on a lake fishing and now we were returning to dock in our small motorboat. As we came close to the dock he told me to “fend off with an oar” so as not to scrape the boat against the dock. I quickly jumped to the bow to fend off and protect the hull of the boat, but instead of using an oar I put out my hand. Small as the boat was, it still had a dry weight of about a thousand pounds. With that kind of inertia behind it gliding in slowly, using my hand as a brake against the dock, my hand slid against the grey weathered planks of the dock for a good six to eight feet before we even started to slow down. Oh, did I mention that those grey weathered planks generously drove hundreds of splinters into the palm of my hand? I do believe that I had never before experienced such pain in my previous fourteen years of life.
My dad didn’t “punish” me for not following his directions . . . he didn’t need to. I suffered the natural consequences of my action. He had not stopped me but allowed this to happen so that I would remember well the pain and never make that mistake again. How stupid would I have to be to ever do that again!
My father didn’t stop loving me because I chose my own way over and against his. He loved me despite my rebellion against his wisdom and hoped that I would return to trusting in his greater experience and subsequent wisdom for my own sake. One would think that the pain in my hand might spur me on to such trust . . . one would think.
We first hear the phrase “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” in Psalm 110, but it is often repeated throughout scripture. The word “fear” is used here not so much as to be “terrified”, but rather to “stand in awe” or put more simply “to look up to” and “to respect” and “to trust”. Of course, to really “look up to” or “respect” and “trust” someone you probably would have to know them pretty well. I knew my dad pretty well and while I did look up to, respect, and trust my father in many ways, I often had my own opinions in areas where I disagreed with him … especially if my disagreement revolved around something that he wanted me to do or not do where what I wanted was the opposite. And even still, my father never stopped loving me, even when he saw me rolling stubbornly toward what would inevitably result in very painful consequences for me … and for those around me … including him.
The Holy Bible (God’s personal revelation of Himself to us) uses the words “the Lord” when referring to God. He reveals Himself through other titles as well, one of which is “Father”. In fact, Jesus prays to the Father using the word “Abba” (which in Aramaic is akin to “Papa” or “Daddy”, a respectful yet personal term of endearment). The idea is that God our Father is not some far off and aloof “super-being”, but a very personal and loving father. He is one who should be looked up to, respected, and trusted because of his gracious love, provision, and protection for his children, as well as his much greater experience and wisdom. He should be listened to not because of fear of punishment, but because through intimate knowledge of Him (by way of His Word [the Bible] to us) we should know that He knows best and wants only what is best for us. We should know this … but we often want something opposite.
We want to “love” whoever we want in whatever way we want, not necessarily “bound” by God’s definition and institution of marriage. We want women to be sovereign over “their own bodies” even when it means deadly dictatorship over the very separate and equally sovereign bodies within them. We want to gossip about others and belittle them in order to feel better about ourselves by comparison. We want to disrespect the authorities over us because we don’t want anyone telling us what to do or not do … and so we want to say we don’t believe in God so that we can feel free to do whatever WE WANT! … or if we do say we believe in God we only want to listen to Him as long as what He has to say agrees with what we want to hear; and so we go through His Word (the Bible) with a red pencil crossing out whatever we disagree with saying, “God didn’t really write that part of the Bible … because I don’t like it.”
After all of this rebellion, lack of trust, respect, and reverence, our Father doesn’t have to punish us, because of the resulting pain and suffering we bring into our own lives and the lives of others. One would think we would remember the pain and learn; perhaps even return to our loving Father … one would think.
And yet, even if our rebellion is 100% and our disrespect is totally turned to hate, our Father never stops loving us; never stops wanting only the best for us. He is patient, giving us every opportunity (with His help through His Word) to come to our senses; be brought back out of our self-inflicted pain and suffering into His loving and compassionate embrace, provision, and protection. He is always ready and willing to completely forgive us. That is why the Father sent His Son; to buy us back from the slavery of our rebellion; to bring us back from death to life; to rescue us from the drowning waters of our despair, shame, and hurt.
God, our Father, is real. He can be intimately known. He is near you, not far off. And as the very best of all fathers, He loves you.
Oh, by the way … He is ALWAYS right! (And that’s a GOOD thing!)
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)
10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
Rev. Nick Wirtz is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church at 2750 Mogollon Dr. in Overgaard, AZ and can be reached at (323) 717-4390. Pastor Nick resides in Overgaard with his wife Patricia. He has spent over 20 years as a pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod with most of that time spent in bi-lingual (English-Spanish) ministry. He also serves on the board of the local Salvation Army as an advisor, and as Chaplain for Post 86 American Legion Riders. He’s also known to be seen pickin’ a little guitar around town from time to time.