Early in the morning of July 25, 1990, I became something God has always been — a father. It happened again two, seven and 10 years later when my other children came along.

Now I spend my days experiencing the good and the bad of what it means to be somebody’s daddy, to be the highest earthly representation of a heavenly person for my children.

I can relate to how God must feel as our heavenly Father. My wife, Olivia, shares a similar feeling. If I represent God’s stability, provision and strength, then Olivia shows his compassion, beauty and tenderness. Together, we also share moments that show something of how He must feel, snapshots tucked away in the heart’s photo album.

{ Click } I recall the flutter of life and the sense of awe that another human being, my child, would soon journey into a new world.

{ Click } I recall staring into each tiny infant’s face mere minutes after the baby had been scrunched within the womb — miniature eyelashes, ears and lips. Perfectly formed hands wrapped around my giant index finger.

{ Click, click, click } Accepting that first open-mouthed, runny-nose-laced kiss, then wiping my face before getting two more.

{ Click } I recall hours of coaching until finally “dada” came out (sort of). No one else heard it, but it sounded close enough to make my heart soar.

{ Click } Cheering first steps into Mummy’s arms.

{ Click } Wiping first tumble-down-the-stairs tears.

An Irresistible Impulse

Some of the most awe-inspiring moments come when I clearly see myself in one of the kids. Sometimes too clearly, like the time our oldest child embarrassed his grade five teacher by correcting her in front of the class. “You know, he takes after you in that way,” my wife pointed out.

From the shape of a nose to the tone of a voice, each child expresses traces of Olivia and myself in big and small ways. It is like an artist seeing a bit of himself in what he creates. The painting is wholly other, yet clearly from himself.

I think God allows us to become parents so we can sample what it feels like for him to be our Father. I can’t help the love I feel for my children, like an irresistible impulse woven into the fabric of my being.

Point of Discovery

At one-and-a-half, Nicole has reached that phase when children get a kick out of identifying facial features. She first mastered the nose.

“Where’s your nose?” I ask, eager for my budding genius to point to the centre of her face. Then comes the really good part. She turns her finger around, points to my giant beak and struggles to pronounce one of only 20 words in her developing vocabulary, “Nose.”

We then move on to eye, ear, cheek, hair. When we come to the chin, her tiny hand gently cups itself under my jawbone, and my heart melts. Her determined tenderness tells me the world and the people around her — the things we adults take for granted — are a marvel. Every new discovery becomes part of the adventure called learning. I love the sense of awe it reawakens in me.

I wonder: Does God’s heart melt when I reach for His face or when I struggle to put my discovery into words?

Created to Create

My older boys are in that stage when I find myself amazed at who they are becoming. Shaun is the imaginative artist. He hands me his latest creation, eager for my approval. “Good job, buddy!” An inadequate expression of how I really feel.

Kyle is proving to be a gifted musician. I quit piano lessons long before reaching his current skill level on the keyboard. At Kyle’s semi-annual piano recitals, I can’t believe my child has learned to play such difficult music. “That was great! I’m proud of you.” Equally inadequate.

I wonder: Does God’s heart thrill when I mimic His ability to create something out of nothing? Does He get a lump in His throat when I use the talents He gave me?

Lovingly Stern

Of course, for every moment of parental pride, joy or awe, there has been a moment of frustration, conflict and heartache. Our home has seen its share of irresponsible spills, nap-deprived tantrums and defiant rebellion. I frequently hear my father’s words coming out of my mouth.

“Don’t speak to your mother like that!”

“Go to your room and wait for me.”

“You have three seconds to change that attitude!”

I don’t like being stern. But it is a necessary part of the job. Still, it can be painful. No matter how many times I correct the kids, another round of conflict waits ahead. Being respectful doesn’t come any more naturally for them than it did for you or me. It has to be learned. It has to be taught.

I wonder: Does our heavenly Father tire of our bad attitudes? Does He find it necessary to be stern at times, loving us too much to overlook wrong?

Through the Eyes of a Dad

Every day I take another gulp of what God must feel. I can’t help loving my kids, imperfections and all. I would die for them. I suppose He would, too.

It is one thing to view God as a father. It is quite another thing to see God through the eyes of one who has been a father. I know what it is to see myself in my children and to derive joy from their happiness. I know what it is to want to protect them from harm, yet realise I must let them learn from their own mistakes. I know what it is to become angry at their disobedience while hating the need to punish. I know what it is to lay aside my own desires and dreams in order to meet the needs of my child.

In short, I know something of how God must feel, because He has allowed me a small taste of what it is to be somebody’s daddy. And of the many things being a father has taught me about Him, I am most certain of one thing: God loves us; He can’t help it.

Kurt Bruner

Kurt Bruner is a father of four and formerly worked as a vice-president at Focus on the Family in Colorado.

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