Relating to Father God when our earthly fathers are not people to be celebrated


Well that's another Father's Day over, you may be saying that with relief. For some, it's a hard day to get through because our fathers are not people to be celebrated.

In the same way, many struggle with the whole concept of a Father God because their father here on earth was either absent, overbearing, abusive or indifferent.

Father's Day wasn't such a big thing when I was growing up, but it was by the time I was in my 20s. It wasn't a day I looked forward to because of the non-existent relationship I had with my father. I gave him the occasional bar of rum and raisin chocolate because people kept asking me what I'd got him!

This was my adoptive dad. His circumstances meant he didn't have a clue how to parent and was emotionally absent, although physically present. It wasn't a complicated relationship – there wasn't a relationship to be complicated.

The biggest gift I had during my young years was the knowledge that God was my Father. I didn't have a sophisticated theological understanding of that, just a basic understanding that although my dad was distant, God wasn't. That's because in church, this was the language used and the Holy Spirit buried it in the deepest parts of my heart and soul, where the pain of that non-relationship would hurt most.

Over 20 years ago there was a move in children's work not to use the terminology 'Father God'. It was a well intentioned decision designed to help children who might 'switch off' from teaching if we used the word 'Father'.

I think we did a massive disservice to a whole generation with that decision. Yes, we needed to be careful in our use and explanation of the word for those children who, like me, struggled with their fathers, but taking Father out of our faith language was not helpful. It just brushed a much bigger problem under the carpet rather than supporting children through the pain they were going through and helping them to deal with it.

I have story upon story of children who have found comfort in the idea of God as Father and built a resilient faith as a result, but I have an equal number of stories of those who are having to painfully re-learn their flawed understanding of God as a two person trinity as opposed to the three person trinity that he actually is. This was a decision that I hope we never revisit.

I'm going to tell you a little more of my story, not for sympathy, but because it may help some people who struggle with the idea of Father God.

I'll start with a theological argument. Some people talk about the word 'Abba' meaning 'daddy', and about climbing up on our 'Heavenly Daddy's lap'. Other theologians have since waded in, saying this is wrong and diminishes who God is.

Some of my most comforting moments as a child have been those times I have imagined myself on God's lap crying my eyes out. It never occurred to me this could be wrong. The notion came from hearing that being adopted into God's family gave me rights as his daughter. My young mind took that as giving me the right to climb onto his lap and wail - loudly! It's what I needed as a child and God understood that. I will not apologise for calling Him Daddy when I needed to – even if it's not theologically correct!

As you have now gathered, I'm adopted, so I have a birth father as well as my adoptive father.

My issues with my adoptive dad came to a head when I married. I desperately didn't want him to walk me down the aisle. My family expected it and I was under pressure to keep up appearances, but my thinking at the time was: how can you walk arm in arm down the aisle with someone who has never hugged you?  In the end, due to a minor illness, he wasn't able to and as a result, it was one of my proudest moments to be walked down the aisle by my lovely brother who understood the problem more than anyone else in the world.

Six months later I found out more about my other 'dad'.

It wasn't pretty.

In the name of brevity I'm going to be brutal. I am the result of rape.

My birth mother decided not to abort me. Abortion was illegal in those days, but medics still said they would help her if that's what she wanted. She categorically said no, but she was forced to give me up for adoption.

As an aside, all of the recent narrative about rape and abortion has been very difficult for me and others born in similar circumstances. The language used has been harsh and far too simplistic for such a big subject. I may write more on this in the future. But I am grateful for the massive sacrifice my birth mother made in birthing me in spite of the circumstances.

I could be full of hate, but I have learnt to give these circumstances to God and move on. I'm not superhuman - there are times I have to do it daily! I learnt that if I don't, my past will begin to influence my future. There are times I have a jealous twinge when I see fathers and daughters together, but that's only natural. Thankfully I can look back and see how God has redeemed my story.

I don't want to over simplify the pain of others who have had a difficult, non existent or abusive relationship with their father. Mine is just one story of many. But I do want to say – don't judge God by your earthly father.

As a Christian you are adopted into God's family. He is your Father. Metaphorically climb onto His lap and cry if you need to, but be assured of this: He is trustworthy, He understands, and He cries with you.

Happy (belated) Father's day God x

Kay Morgan-Gurr is Chair of Children Matter and Co-Founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, part of the Evangelical Alliance Council. For more, and on Twitter @kaymorgan_gurr