Eternally the Father
There were advantages to the naivete Lisa and I had when our first child was born. We had no idea how exhausted we would be. You can’t really prepare for stuff like that; you can only dread it. But now that we’ve had a fourth child, we know that, overall, it gets easier each time because you learn from the mistakes you made the first time around.
I just finished reading Michael Reeves’ book Delighting in the Trinity. Too often we either worry about getting something wrong, or we don’t really understand why it matters; rarely do we see the beauty and delight in worshiping a triune God. Reeves’ book is one of the best I’ve read on seeing the wonderful implications of the Trinity. I’d recommend you read it and would be happy to lend you my copy.
One these implications is that God is eternally a father. In other words, God did not become the Father. Many first-time fathers struggle with things like getting the diaper on correctly. (Unfortunately you don’t realize that mistake until it’s too late, and you need to change a whole outfit!) We struggle to help our children with disappointments and hurts. In each stage of life, we make so many mistakes. We mean well, but we just don’t know any better. Experience helps, but we never do it perfectly.
Part of the reason for this is because we become a father or mother. It’s not natural to who we are. You must have a child to be a father (or mother). Now this is where the Trinity comes in. A classic trinitarian statement is “one God in three persons.” These three persons existed eternally together in a loving and perfect relationship. And the relationship between the first and second persons in God is described as a father/son relationship. In John 17:4, Jesus prayed to his father who loved him from before the creation of the world. Or Colossians 1:17 says, “the Son was before all things.” Or in Mark 1:11, God the Father says, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Because of the Trinity, God has always been a father. It’s part of who he is. Being a father is as natural to God as breathing is to us. For those of us who are parents, all of our life is spent learning what it means to be a father or mother. But it’s different for God; everything about being a father, God is. There is no becoming.
This should be a comfort to us, because one of the primary ways we relate to God is as a father. We’ve all had different experiences with fathers–good and bad. And yet, what a comfort it is to know that all of us can know the perfect father. Unlike earthly parents, who mess up as they learn, God never messes up. He doesn’t make mistakes in our life that we have to pay for. The paths he has placed us on are good ones. Even when those paths don’t seem good, we shouldn’t forget God is our Father, a good father. And just as a young child doesn't understand why Mom and Dad do certain things, we don’t understand all that our Father makes us do. But it’s comforting to know he’s not learning to be a father with us; he is already the perfect Father doing this for our good. What a delight it is to follow a God who is both a king and a loving and perfect father to his children.