When I read the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), my heart swells as I think of my own relationship with my dad. I can so easily see glimmers of God’s love there. But this isn’t the case for everyone. For many, to address or even imagine God as father, even a father as gracious and loving as the prodigal son’s, is impossible because of their experiences – the broken or nonexistent relationships, the trauma, the pain.
Should we continue to hold fast to our language of God as father? Should we do the opposite, rejecting altogether any and all images of divine fatherhood?
I wonder if the answer lies somewhere in the middle. After all, while fatherhood language is central to Scripture’s witness, it’s far from exclusive. God is also presented in Scripture as a mother (Isaiah 66:13), a good shepherd (Psalm 23), a healer (Jeremiah 30:17) and so many more. No one metaphor – not even that of father – can fully encapsulate God. And that means that no one person, no one role, no one story, has a monopoly on God either.
This message is excerpted from “Multiple metaphors” by Hannah J. Hawkinson in the June 2020 Gather magazine. Today is the Third Sunday after Pentecost. Today is Father’s Day.
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