Monday, October 21, 2013

“The Father’s Heart” by Garris Elkins

In October of 2006, I rented a room in a lodge along the Rogue River in Southern Oregon.  I went there for a three-day prayer and study retreat. Each day I would hike along a graveled road high above the river.  On one of these hikes, I spotted a smooth and brilliant white stone that stood out in stark contrast to the gray-graveled roadway.  It was so out of place that I was drawn down towards it and picked it up.  As I lifted the white rock off the roadway the Lord spoke to me and said, “I have made you a father.”

I know what it means to be a father in a natural sense – Jan and I have two wonderful children.  This was different. This was a spiritual assignment. Today, that rock sits on a bookshelf in my office at church as a reminder of my calling.

Since the day that I picked up that white stone, something different has been happening.  I have noticed God connecting me with people in our city who simply want the compassionate presence of a father where they can be heard and have dialogue in a safe place. I have also seen relationships established with pastors and leaders across the United States who want a spiritual father with whom they can process life and ministry.

Several themes have developed as the Lord has helped me understand what it means to be a spiritual father:

1.) Fathers affirm the identity of their children.

This is the starting point for all a father will do and say.  Fathers draw from the God-given identity of a child and then speak words back to the child to affirm their identity. Unless the identity of a person, a group or a city is understood, the rest of what we attempt to do will have no context in which to live and thrive. A believing parent carries the identity of a family.  A believing employee or employer carries the identity of a workplace. The Church carries the identity of a city. God is raising up spiritual fathers and mothers to affirm these identities so that cycles of dysfunction can end and new life can begin.

2.) Fathers protect their children.

The very nature of a father is one who protects. A father’s protection creates a safe place where sons and daughters can be free to be themselves because they know they will not be dishonored in disclosure.  Cities and families need spiritual parents who will protect the honor of people by calling them to live within the higher reality of God’s love.

3.) Fathers provide for their children.

Father’s release their resources, both natural and spiritual, to replenish and refresh children when they encounter seasons of need and fatigue. Families and cities are feeling vulnerable today. They are tired and hungry for the love, rest and provision a father’s presence brings.

4.) Fathers speak resurrection life

Jesus approached the Cross knowing the Father had promised Him there would be resurrection life on the other side of His death experience.   Like Jesus, we all move forward through cycles of death and resurrection. Cities and families do the same.

In between each death and resurrection experience is that pause, before the resurrection, where life seems hopeless. It is in this place where death is the most visible, that words of hope are needed. Some of these death experiences feel like the end – the end of a marriage; the end of a ministry; the end of a dream, but with God they contain the hope of another beginning because resurrection life is always ahead of us when we follow God. Fathers remind spiritual sons and daughters that hope is always present no matter how challenging the season might be.

5.) Fathers restore fallen sons and daughters

Like the story of the returning Prodigal Son, spiritual fathers are willing to kill fatted calves and reaffirm broken sons and daughters with restoration, robes and rings.  You can tell a spiritual father from everyone else in the crowd.  They are the ones who break from the crowd and run out to receive the child who is coming back home. Fathers also affirm their love for dysfunctional older sons who have yet to understand the Father’s heart for all His children. This kind of love can restore a family and a city because these relationships are made up of people who are simply looking for a way to come home to God.

Some of you reading these words are being asked to become spiritual parents.  This is not an age-specific assignment.  You can be 65 years old and not know what it means to function as a father or you can be 25 and fully engaged in this calling.

Becoming a spiritual parent is an assignment we choose to pick up – like the white stone I found on the gravel road along the Rogue River.  If you choose to pick up this calling your presence and your words will begin to birth hope and destiny in those who see you as a spiritual parent.

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