“I’ll Be Your Father”
When I became a Christian, the late Dr. Ed Cole, founder of the Christian Men’s Network, became a spiritual father to me. In 1989, he invited me to attend a men’s event with himself and Ben Kinchlow in Dallas. It was a father-son type of gathering.
Dr. Cole called me and said, “Doug, I just want to make sure you’re coming to Dallas for the men’s event.”
“No sir, I won’t be coming,” I said. I was going through some difficulties situations, and I just didn’t feel like being around people. But Dr. Cole persisted.
“Doug, you really need to be here. You really need to be here.”
Finally, I relented, and I honored Dr. Cole by going the banquet.
I was on the plane, and I hadn’t eaten in over two weeks—not because I was fasting by choice, but because I had been forced into a fast by the Spirit. I was grieving in my heart about a lot things. I was on my way to this event for fathers and sons, but I never felt like I had a father. My real father and my stepfather were both Viet Nam veterans. They both had a lot of pain in their lives, and now I understand that they were both covering up their pain with alcohol. But as a child, I only knew there was something missing. And even as Christian, I had come to know Jesus but not the Father’s heart and the Father’s love. I understood the cross. I understood His grace and His love. But I still didn’t understand the Spirit of Adoption or the intimacy of the Father. Because of my upbringing, it was difficult to understand the revelation of “Abba.”
At Dr. Cole’s banquet, I watched these sons and fathers together enjoying true fellowship, and tears of joy began to stream down my face for that emerging generation. But mingled in with those tears of joy were also tears of sadness and a longing for the love and companionship of a father that I had never understood. Yes, I had done special thing at times with my father and stepfather, but it was never consistent. I had never learned to snow ski. I had never learned to swim. I never went deep sea fishing. Here I was, already in my 30s, and there was a whole list of things I had never done, the things normal sons and fathers do.
“Doug,” I heard God say in His still small voice. “I’m your Father. I want to do things with you that you never did with a father.”
I have to admit, my response was somewhat skeptical. “How can You do that, God? You’re not tangible. I need someone real.” I couldn’t comprehend how I could have that kind of companionship with someone who wasn’t human.
A year later, I found myself on the ski slopes of Crested Butte, Colorado. I took the “Never Ever” class with 7-year-olds zipping past me with no poles. I thought it was the stupidest sport I had ever been a part of. But, finally, after a couple of days, I was actually skiing one of the slopes. And though I was still falling a lot, it didn’t matter anymore. At one point, I stopped and looked at the beauty of God’s creation. Suddenly, the Lord spoke to me, reminding me of His promise a year earlier.
“See, son! I told you we’d do some things for the first time!”
There we were, skiing together! And all of a sudden, I realized He IS tangible!
Later that year, I went deep sea fishing for the first time in my life. I was with pastor friends in Australia, and I caught the biggest fish out of the entire group! I called it “Jaws.” It was huge! They hadn’t caught anything that size the entire summer. I played golf for the first time in Australia, too—and I hit the same kangaroo twice!
That same year was also the first time I ever went to a lake, jumped off a boat, and went water skiing. I never did get up, so it was more like “knee boarding.” But I did it! Me and my Father, me and my “Abba.” My Heavenly Father had become tangible to me by the Spirit of Adoption.
God wants to be a Father to the fatherless, to adopt them in these fatherless days. Many in this generation do not have a good relationship or understanding of a godly earthly father, making it very difficult to understand Daddy God. They go through struggles and confusion because they have no comprehension of God’s love. “How could God possibly love me unconditionally, when I’ve never even experienced that kind of love and have no concept of what it means?” They must, like I did, come the revelation of the Spirit of Adoption.
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ (Romans 8:15)
I used to lament the fact that my earthly father and stepfather didn’t truly know what it meant to be fathers. I missed out on many father-son opportunities in the natural. But after God adopted me, I realized my Daddy was with me all along. Not only did He seal me with the Spirit of Adoption, He began to teach me how to be a son. He’s taught me what it is like to have a daddy who cares. And no matter what struggles, what intimate thoughts, whatever fears or insecurities I have, I can always crawl up into His lap and call Him Daddy—and He will wrap me in His arms and tell me everything is okay.
For so many years, I looked for affirmation from man. What I really lacked was a father’s blessing, and I found it in my Heavenly Father. In our intimacy with Him, our fellowship with Him, we find the value of our worth. His love is unconditional, and His joy inexpressible! This Father’s Day, will you receive His unconditional love, acceptance, and affirmation?
This article is adapted from Doug Stringer’s latest book in progress on the pursuit of spiritual fathers. For more articles by Doug, please visit www.dougstringer.com.