Our Father

Before I read Slaughterhouse-Five for the first time a couple of years ago, it seemed like everyone else on the planet had read it. Since then, I’ve discovered that is not the case, so I’ll give a brief summary.

Billy Pilgrim is an eye doctor. He was drafted into World War II, and he was taken prisoner during the war. He says he was abducted by aliens, Tralfamadorians, and lived on their planet for a while. Tralfamadorians do not see time as a linear thing, and Billy Pilgrim doesn’t either after interacting with them. He spends the entire book going back and forth in time.

Billy says:

They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever. When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is “So it goes.”

For those who have never seen it or noticed it, tattooed on the top of my wrist is “So it goes.” That’s because I love this book, and I really like the way the Tralfamadorians view death, so much so that the first time I read that passage, I cried and read it over and over again.

I don’t consider this tattoo to be in honor of my dad, but I do think of my dad sometimes when I look at it. It gives me a great sense of peace because even though my dad is no longer alive, he’s alive in my memories, he’s alive through me now if I live out or impart things he taught me, and he’s alive in heaven, in eternity, where I will one day join him. He’s alive in so many other ways and moments.

I love my dad, and I miss my dad, and I am so thankful for the 20 years I had with him. I’m proud to be his daughter. Mostly, I wish my dad was still with me, but I can see how my life has changed in positive ways that it wouldn’t have if he were still here. And I feel no guilt in saying that because I know my dad would understand, in part because I’ve grown and found people and things that make me happy, many of which are a result of following God and receiving His blessings.

I’ve always viewed God as a Father, but losing my earthly dad changed the dynamic of my relationship with my Heavenly Father a bit. My dad was fantastic, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. And my dad certainly shaped who I am as a person. But God is perfect, and in my dad’s physical absence since his passing, I’ve relied more on God and grown closer to Him, and that has shaped who I am and how I see the world more than anything.

I understand why Jesus taught us and the disciples to address God as “Father” when we pray. Jesus says in Matthew 6:9 (KJV), “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”

Jesus could’ve addressed God but any role He plays in the universe: Creator, Alpha and Omega, I Am, The One True God, etc. And all of those roles certainly affect us, and those roles show how big and powerful God is. But Jesus identifies God in a way that reflects His relationship with us, and in doing so, He proves how intimate prayer is.

Being children of God, our prayers are heard and listened to by our Father. We can go to Him at any time, in any place, with any situation and any state of mind, and He hears and responds to us, whether we can see that response or not. The God who formed everything into existence and who has always been and always will be cares about us and communicates with us. He’s adopted us and made us royalty within His kingdom.

And Jesus acknowledges us as children when He says “our Father.” He doesn’t say, “MY Father because I’m the real Son of God…” or “Dear Father of the Messiah, Jesus Christ…” He includes us. He recognizes us as children of God as well.

Jesus follows this display of intimacy by showing reverence to God: “Hallowed be thy name.” In doing this, He recognizes who God is as an entity, not only in relation to us. He is holy, and His name should be respected for His holiness.

This duality, familiarity and reverence, are hard for us to grasp and maintain. In my experiences, most people gravitate to one side of the spectrum or the other. For example, I tend to see God in such a personal, familiar light that I often lose sight of how mighty and holy He is. I love that He’s my Father and my friend because those are usually the roles I need Him in the most, but it causes me to forget how grand He really is. Other people are really into how holy and powerful God is, so much so that they lack a lot of intimacy with Him. Jesus shows us in Matthew 6 how to balance this duality by being aware of and acknowledging both aspects.

God is a perfect Father, one who loves you, accepts you, disciplines you, and stays with you. There’s nothing you, child of His or not, could do to make Him love you less. As His child, you have access to Him in ways that others don’t, and this is only possible through the blood of Jesus. Because of what He means to us and because of who He is, we should show reverence to Him and His name through our interactions with Him and others. Demonstrating that respect will draw us closer to Him and impact those around us.

By Carrie Prevette 

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Psalms: Eight

As some of you know, I usually base my blog posts off of the previous Sunday’s sermon. Every now and then, I’ll deviate, and for the first time, I’m going to deviate from the sermons for an entire series.

The current sermon series at Abstract is The Parables of Jesus, and it’s been good so far. I’m not skipping the series because I dislike it. The problem is that parables are pretty simple. Whenever Jesus wanted to spell something out for His followers or His audience, He used a parable as a teaching tool to get the message across. The stories are fairly easy to understand and are also fairly easy to explain or discuss. That being said, I don’t feel like there’s anything I can add or contribute to this series without just repeating the preacher who gave the sermon. I mean, if you wanted to hear the sermon all over again, you could just go to the Abstract website and listen to it. (Here is the place if you’d like to give it a listen.)

I’ll be doing a blog series on some of my favorite psalms in the meantime, and I hope the fact that I’m doing a series of my own and not one that supplements the sermon series doesn’t make you all throw up your hands and leave the blog.

 

God’s been trying to point my attention back to prayer for a while now, and I can remember when He started. It was at Bible study (Connect Groups is what Abstract attendees will know it as), and it was the beginning of Francis Chan’s Crazy Love study. We were discussing whether we usually feel intimacy with God or feel reverence for Him. Then the question arose of when we felt sort of stunned by the magnitude and majesty of God, and the very first thing that came to my mind was Psalm 8.

“O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8, NRSV).

As a piece of literature, Psalm 8 is lovely. The first and last sentences are exactly the same, which creates a bookend situation and also summarizes and reiterates what the entire psalm is about. The tone of awe is not only fitting, it is also very clear and well-established. The words fit together well and create images that truly resonate and put the size, love, and beauty of God into perspective.

I typically am very casual with God. The fact that I can (and do) have a personal relationship with God that is often very private is engrained in my brain. Hearing preachers, teachers, and church elders – spiritual role models – telling me repeatedly that God is my friend and longs to be close to me and finding those same themes and lines of thought in the Bible have led to me seeing God as someone who knows me better than any other being ever could and regarding Him as a friend. All of that to say that whenever I read this psalm, God’s bigness and power is very evident to me, and I’m filled with awe and reverence of Him.

About five and a half years ago, I joined a group of friends from school on this retreat deep into the mountains where we stayed in a house that was far off any sort of main road. This place did not have wifi, and I don’t recall it having much signal either. One night when we were all there and hanging out, me and a couple of other people were out on the deck looking out at the stars. The owner asked if we’d like for him to turn the lights inside off for a minute, and we said yes. When he did, the amount of visible stars doubled. To this day, I have never seen so many stars before in my life. They were so abundant and were shining so brightly since they didn’t have any streetlights or stoplights or lit towers to compete with. It’s a very vivid memory of mine, and Psalm 8 reminds me of that feeling: standing in the valley of the mountains and looking up at more stars than I could ever count.

Because of that experience, I can see why David asked God what the big deal was with humans considering other things He’s created. We don’t always sparkle. We don’t usually leave everyone breathless. We don’t command attention while drawing people’s thoughts in a philosophical or pleasant direction. We aren’t the stars.

But to quote The Script in their song “Science and Faith,” “You won’t find heart and soul in the stars.” Humans may not be as dazzling as other parts of creation, but we have personalities that make us unique and different from one another as much as we’re the same. We have an interesting complexity to us. We were given free will and therefore require the guidance of God in a way that no other part of creation does. And we were given souls, which means that we’re given the opportunity to be with God forever, even when everything else from this life and world fade.

As odd as it may sound, Psalm 8 also feels a bit intimate as well, although not overwhelmingly so as it does reverent. To think that God cared about humans, including me, enough to give me power over everything and bestow upon me the opportunity of eternity the way that He has is certainly humbling. Psalm 8 is one of the most oddly empowering pieces of literature that I’ve ever read because it demonstrates that although God’s huge and so are His capabilities, He still cares greatly for us. (To prove this further, the New King James Version of Psalm 8 says in verse 2 that God has “ordained strength” out of the mouths of young children. It also says in verse 4 that God visits the son of man.)

I suppose the idea of whether or not you view God in a more intimate or reverent way can be food for thought this week, but I really just wanted to illustrate that there’s always both. The duality of God’s immenseness and intimacy is just as real in Psalm 8 as it is in our lives. There will be moments when God seems too huge for us, and there will be moments when He seems closer than any tangible thing possibly could be. Either way we see Him, we’ll be able to see Him as long as we look for Him.

By Carrie Prevette

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