Yesterday I drew this trinity spiral. I hesitated before I wrote Father on the stone because I know that for many of my friends calling God father speaks of a patriarchal God they are not willing to accept. I too have eagerly embraced non patriarchal images of God – Creator, Eternal One, Holy One being some of the terms I prefer.
This morning as I grappled with this I realized how often I leave my own father out of the picture and I wonder if I do the same with God. My own father was a violent and an unapproachable man. He had known little love in his own upbringing and I think was incapable of showing love to his family. We all lived in fear of his rages and leaving home was a way to escape the fear and the violence.
My early images of God were very much of an unapproachable Father, an emperor figure on a throne, distant and uninterested in the pain and suffering of humankind. Even our Christmas images often leave the father out. Pictures of Jesus with his mother we are very familiar with but I cannot think of a single picture of Jesus with his father. Yes I know, Joseph was not really his father, but having watched the pride of some of my male friends who have adopted children I know how loving and caring an adopting father can be. Joseph must have loved Mary very deeply to accept her pregnancy. He cared for this adopted son so much that he uprooted his family and fled into Egypt because of him. And he passed on his skills as a carpenter to him. Joseph spent a lot of time with this adopted son teaching him these skills.
Gradually my own ideas of God as father have changed. The God who is love, is as much an image of a caring, compassionate, protective father as it is of a nurturing, warmly embracing mother. This God I want to call both father and mother but at the moment I particularly want to call him father. I have known that protecting, providing father love and I sit in awe of these aspects of God.
As I thought about this today, I found myself weeping, grieving for the love I never experienced from my own earthly father. At the same time I found gratitude welling up within me for aspects of who my father was that I never appreciated. He was a good provider. He allowed me equal opportunity with my brothers which I did not fully appreciate until many years later. While my cousins went to university to find husbands, I went to train as a doctor.
One of the Facebook groups I belong to has encouraged us to honour our ancestors this week. It is my father’s family that I am honouring and thanking God for. My maiden name Aroney is probably a rendition of Aaron. My father’s family probably left Israel in the early Christian era. I wander if it was because they became Christians. They fled to Byzantium and then to the island of Rhodes and finally to the island of Kithera off the coast of Greece. There appear to be many Orthodox priests and strong Christians in my heritage. I am proud of who they were and am grateful to God for the opportunity to get to know them, at least a little, at this stage of my life.
So as we move through this week of gratitude I wonder Are you too missing the father heart of God? Is there room in your manger scene for Joseph as well as Mary. And is there room in your images of God to embrace the father love of God as well as the mother love?