It’s not always easy for men to be open and honest. Most of us were taught from an early age that openly expressing our feelings and sharing our struggles is not a particularly “manly” thing to do. We learn to hide who we are from an early age. This was highlighted during a study trip to the Georgia mountains when my wife Caron and I walked in the early mornings and evenings. We often saw lots of deer—all of them does. We never once saw a buck—they were all hiding. Of course, men aren’t exactly like bucks. But it did remind me of guys in one way: we hide well. We can live in isolation and feel like we thrive, staying hidden and unknown. It hurts us more than we know to be this way, and it hurts our sons even more.
In heaven I hope to sit down over a cup of coffee with my earthly dad because his story was hidden from me. He wasn’t able to coherently lay it out for me while he was here on earth. It was one of the reasons that I slipped and tripped at the starting line of my manhood.
I’m sure there were many reasons he was so hidden. Perhaps one factor was that he lost his dad at age eleven—an earthshaking loss for a young boy. He said more than once to me that his dad was the person most like Jesus Christ that he had ever met. When the biggest person in his life was ripped away, he must have been cut to shreds. The dangling components of his inner life never came together as he became the man of the house way too early.
How would this orphan boy become a man? Would he follow in his father’s footsteps as planned and become a missionary doctor too? His Venezuelan grandfather rejected him when he wouldn’t stay in Venezuela and instead came to the US for medical school. World War II yanked him away to fix bodies torn by bullets and flying hot metal. The new normal of postwar Los Angeles must have been anything but normal. Marriage, two kids, a career out of medicine, divorce, remarriage, then death from cardiac arrest at eighty-seven. Unhappiness and darkness marked his life. He missed out on being a father to his son and daughter by his own decisions.
In my experience, sons want and need to know their fathers. A son that knows his father is like a sprinter with his feet firmly planted at the beginning of the race on the starting blocks. A father who lets his son know him, who opens his heart and his life to his son, acts like starting blocks for a boy. Feet firmly planted, he can move ahead more confidently and quickly in life, springing into manhood. Boys with a hidden dad slip and slide a lot at the starting point of manhood as they try to get some positive forward momentum in life.
When a son doesn’t really know his father, he can’t really know himself. A father who is unhidden—who shares who he is with his son without holding back anything—is able to help his son find his own point of reference and identity in a chaotic world. A father differentiates his son from the crowd, focuses him, reinforces the point that his son is unique, and points to the trails in life that are consistent with their family.
If you had an earthly father who opened his life and heart to you, you know your father’s story. That’s a wonderful gift. But to really know ourselves, we have to go further than our earthly fathers. We have to know the Father—the one who made us and knows us intimately. We have to know him. All that our own earthly fathers can do only imperfectly (or not at all), our heavenly Father does perfectly.
The good news is that our heavenly Father wants to be known. He wants his sons to know all about him because
he is not hidden. He is a totally committed “all-in” Father who wants you to know him and his love for you.
Knowing Your Heavenly Father Through Creation
One way we can know God is simply by looking at what he has made. What a good way to get to know anyone. Just look at what a person creates and you will know so much about them. It’s easy to take a close look at what God made—just look up. Psalm 19:1–2 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” God started talking from the very moment creation began and he has not stopped talking since. What do we learn about God from what he made? That question could never be fully answered, but let’s just make a small start.
Whether we’re hiking in the Rockies or driving to work, it’s easy to see in the world around us that there is a Creator God who is unimaginably powerful (Romans 1:18–20), and who exercised endless creativity in the varieties of animals and plants he has made (Job 39). God’s infinite wisdom and provision for his creatures is seen in the very foundations and boundaries of earth’s sea and geography (Job 38:8–11) as well as the cycles of the days and seasons (Job 38:19–20). Mapping the human genome stuns us with the intricacy of God’s design. When you look at the world around you and consider who created it, you see the power, magnificence, and glory of God, your Father.
Knowing Your Father Through the Bible
Even though we can learn much about God through what he has made, God hasn’t finished revealing himself. The heavens declare the glory of God, and yet he still speaks to us through his words. He gives us the Bible because he intentionally desires to become a Father and to have a relationship with his children.
He tells us all about himself and ourselves from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible is the self-revelation of a Father who really wants to be known. He doesn’t want us to misunderstand who he is. He specially selected people who would faithfully record his words, thoughts, actions, promises, and desires for his people.
As we read the Bible, we learn that our Father’s power knows no limits. He creates something out of nothing. He raises the dead to life. What he decides to do, he is able to do. That’s omnipotence. You have an all-powerful Father who is all-in with his sons and daughters as well as everything else he has created. What he creates by his grace, he has the power to sustain by his grace.
We are also reminded that God knows everything about everything. That’s omniscience. He knows all about you. You are unhidden to him. He knows you better than you know yourself. Knowing all there is to know about you, he’s still wild about you! God tells us in the Bible that he knows when we sit, when we rise, what we are thinking at all times, and what we are going to say even before it comes out of our mouths. In fact, every day has already been planned for us by our loving heavenly Father (Psalm 139:1–4, 16).
Your heavenly Father is not only all-powerful and all-knowing, he is omnipresent. God is everywhere at all times (Psalm 139). The Father is able to keep up with us all simultaneously and still give each of us his full attention. Did you ever meet someone who gave you one hundred percent of their attention? You feel like the most important person in the world when you are with them. That’s the way it always is with you and God. He is listening. He will always listen.
The Father Is Known Through the Son
Here’s how Jesus explains getting to know your heavenly Father:
“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”John 14:7–11 (ESV)
Jesus is God the Son who perfectly reveals the Father to us. Let that sink in. Grab some time and read a Gospel in one sitting. Pay particular attention to what Jesus reveals to you about the Father. To know our elder brother is to know our Father.
When we reflect on Jesus coming to this earth, we know that this unique event was motivated by love from God the Father as well as God the Son and God the Spirit. The cross reveals the love of the Father every bit as much as it declares the love of Jesus. As Jesus walked this earth, he gave a living picture of the love of the Father for his people. When we see Jesus calling his disciples by name to follow him, we see the Father’s love in action (John 1:35–51).
Jesus’s encounter with an enemy of his people, a Samaritan woman who obviously had a painful and tumultuous relational past gives us another picture of God’s love at work (John 4). Jesus is tired and hungry, but he sees her need is more important than rest and food. So he draws her into a conversation, using language she will connect with, and answers her questions to help her connect to God. In everything Jesus does, we clearly see the love, patience, and generosity of the Father.
Excerpt adapted from Like Father, Like Son: How Knowing God as Father Changes Men by Pete Alwinson ©2015 by Key Life. Used with permission of New Growth Press. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: HOW KNOWING GOD AS FATHER CHANGES MEN
Whether your dad was absent or present, passive or aggressive, positive or negative—you need to know the love of your Father in heaven in order to discover who you are and who you are meant to be.