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Cakes, red meat, and fresh neckties fly off the shelves this week. I’m grateful for the ease with which I could choose a card for my wonderful dad. But many struggle with this weekend’s holiday. I heard a comedian wish aloud for a card without overstated accolades, reading something like, “Well, Dad, I guess you did the best you could.”

Others experience deeper strife than choosing an appropriate card. Father’s Day torments the orphaned, abused, or widowed. A strong sense of loss comes with grieving a beloved man or aching over the empty hole never filled by a father’s love.

God never designed fatherhood to hurt us. Nor did He intend for the role to fill a permanent need. Fathers were built into our life cycle design as a model to help us better understand significant aspects of our relationship to the Ultimate Father. A temporary model to help explain the source Who fulfills our needs forever. The Creator employs earthly dads to point their children toward relationship with a heavenly Father. Dads are meant to serve as imperfect place-holders to demonstrate the role of Our Perfect Father who will fulfill our needs forever. Where humans can only attempt to provide, God sustains us with a sufficiency beyond our expectations. Whether you have a good, hurtful, or missing one, Christ offers us all access to intimate, fulfilling relationship with a Perfect Father. No one needs to remain fatherless.

Mothers raise and nurture children, also conveying certain God-head characteristics when fulfilling their roles well. Some of the Lord’s qualities can be modeled by both parents, in different ways. For the sake of Father’s Day, let’s focus on specific divine attributes reflected in the ideal design of a father’s role.  These include protection, provision, discipline, and fatherly love.

“The Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went” (Deuteronomy 1:31).

In Deuteronomy, we see the Lord’s provision and protection described in tandem. Earthly fathers are engineered for provision and protection, but cannot meet all physical or spiritual needs for a growing individual. Human insufficiency illuminates our need for God as the ultimate resource. Like a good dad, God doesn’t indulge our every desire, but only He can sustain us by identifying and meeting our true needs. Responsible fathers try to protect their kids without insulating them from opportunities to grow. While we might experience hardship, the Lord can use our struggles toward increasing our strength. He alone can guard us against the forces of evil.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11-12).

Discipline wasn’t fun when our parents delivered it. We often shrink from the notion of loving rebuke from God. Unlike the unreliable outcomes of human correction, our heavenly Father only sets boundaries which offer increasing benefit to us. His guidance prevents disaster and steers us toward glorious, abundant life. Sinful tendencies resemble nits in our hair, and the Lord removes them as often as we allow Him to comb them out.

As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13).

Ideal dads show some compassion to their kids. Many never experienced this quality during childhood. Even those who had caring fathers didn’t get selfless adoration at all times. People in this broken world love imperfectly. Why did Scripture offer this insufficient analogy? Because the ancients living in Old Testament period needed a relevant starting point for understanding their relationship with God. Before Christ set aside His glory to dwell among us in human form, nothing on earth came close to the love of God. Jesus alone offered exact representation of the Father’s love.

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Unconditional. Suffering when we hurt. Willing to suffer for us. Selfless. Unlimited. Over-the-top. Amazing. Beyond all our imagination can comprehend. Blowing all other concepts of love out of the water. THAT is the love our Father extends to us.

This weekend, while honoring those designed to point toward heaven, consider the gift of the cross. Christ’s outstretched arms leave no one excluded from access to a perfect Father. If you’ve never accepted the ultimate love gift of eternal life, let this be your opportunity to respond to Jesus’ scarred hands and receive His embrace. It only takes a simple but sincere prayer, like, “I need You, Jesus. I’m all yours.”

Today could begin your endless Father’s Day.

The gymnast springs from the mat to the impossible bars above. Her willowy form flips in an artful spiral through the air. Gasps rise from the arena as the routine mounts toward her final moment. She whirls from the heights and unfolds her legs. The entire performance depends on the ending impact. Her heels stick the landing with grace. A roar of applause echoes around her.

I’ve long admired the grace of gymnasts. I bear all the clumsiness of a Lucille Ball character, without the intentionality. Just this week, I bumped my head emptying the dishwasher and busted my thumb vacuuming. Someone asked if I planned to go ice skating this winter. I tried not to snort while guffawing in response to that one. Good thing my parents had second thoughts about giving me the middle name, Grace. The irony would’ve been overwhelming to bear for a lifetime.

If anyone needs grace, I do. I wish it were only a matter of poor coordination, but I’ve demonstrated clumsiness of the soul as well. No matter how much I’d like to hide my scrapes, I have stumbled over my selfishness and pride plenty of times this year. Worries tripped me. I tangled a knot of criticism into my hair a couple of times. Annoyance choked me with more intensity than the infinity scarf which took half a day to figure out.

What a mess of snot and frizz I’d be if I tried to stick a graceful landing! Or, as the apostle Paul put it, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).

Thank God I don’t have to depend on a flawless performance for a perfect outcome. I vault into my life’s path with the intent of obeying God’s will. One moment, my spirit soars in beautiful alignment with His. Then my focus wobbles. Christ offers me the grace I lack. He draws my mind and heart back into synch with His. With each day’s prayers of heartfelt repentance, I seek His grace. Awkward girl that I am, God knows I need it often. And Jesus promises I can count on it for a beautiful ending. Thankfully, He’s always willing to correct my straying flip and make that impossible landing happen with His perfect grace.

As we approach the end of one year and peek into the next year’s performance, will you share my confidence in His sufficient grace? Let’s look forward to ending and starting anew with the perfect outcomes of Christ in center focus. The applause of a “great cloud of witnesses” will fill the kingdom as we stick that heavenly landing.

May the redeeming power of our Savior bless your New Year’s celebrations and all of 2015.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).

because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,  in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace . . . For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:4-10).

 “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. . . For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. . . . What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15-25).

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1).

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