by Nate Gibson
For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 (New International Version)
Shortly before my daughter was born in February, a friend told me that becoming a father would profoundly change the way that I understood the image of God as “the Father”. Intellectually, this made sense to me, and I tried to imagine ahead of time what that change might feel like. Nothing could have prepared me for the reality, though.
I will never forget the moment I first held my daughter–the relief, the joy, the excitement and trepidation, all rolled up into one overwhelming wave. I didn’t pause then to reflect on how my understanding of God as Father changed, but such moments have hit with startling clarity many times over the past five weeks.
I know full well my own imperfections and weakness, but my infant daughter is, as all infants are, physically weak; incapable of acting on her own behalf. I am the strong party in the father-infant dynamic, and am reminded of this with every helpless cry, every bath-time, every dirty diaper.
My daughter cannot change herself, bathe herself, feed herself, or even roll over on her own just yet. She is completely reliant on my wife and myself.
Of course, this will change. Soon enough, she’ll be rolling over, then sitting up, then crawling, then walking and talking. Our support will be crucial for her to grow out of her infancy and into maturity, but the day will come when we will no longer be there for her.
Consider, then, the image of Jesus as Everlasting Father. We are the infants in this relationship: weak, helpless, incapable of saving ourselves. As with physical infancy, our spiritual infancy is not something we are able to outgrow on our own. Apart from the Father, we would wither, and our cries would go unheeded.
Instead, we are cared for by the Father whose constancy infinitely surpasses my own, or that of any other earthly father; the Father who paradoxically became an infant, weak and helpless, so that He could die for our sins; the Father who sanctifies us, not only for a few short decades, but eternally.