It’s a long road learning that you’re loved by God, who calls himself our Father, especially if you’ve never known your real father. That journey has been painful, tearful, and wonderful for me, and I’m grateful that my Father in heaven is walking it with me.
Recently, God spoke to me from Genesis 28:15 (ESV):
“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
God was speaking to Jacob after he fled from his family. He had just stolen his brother’s blessing from his father, and he was terrified of his brother’s wrath.
In this moment of failure, God (the ultimate Father) encourages him: “I am with you. I will keep you. I will bring you home.” This passage reminded me all over again that my God loves me so much! My failure can’t stop him from loving me; it can’t stop him from passionately pursuing me. My Father’s love is relentless.
So many who come to the Union Gospel Mission have deep wounds from their childhood. Some have never even had any relationship with their parents. Both of those scenarios can and do cause serious issues and long-term pain carried into adulthood.
The fact that I never knew my real father is something God has continually been healing me from since I was a young man.
I was 21, in a quiet time with the Lord, when he began to impress on me that He is my Father. He wanted to fill the hole in my heart where a father’s love should have been.
I quickly responded to this with “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I don’t think we ever really understand the fullness of many of the things God speaks to us, especially me in this moment: the commitment he was offering, the passionate love for His child, the support, the forgiveness, but also the pain of admitting my sorrow and of learning to let it go.
Fast-forward 11 years. I’m 32, and God has never stopped encouraging me of my sonship, of His love as a Father. But still I find myself swerving off the road into ditches of victim-thinking, of slave-thinking.
It isn’t that I don’t believe what God has said and done in my life. Life just gets busy and difficult and confusing at times. I’m still practicing going to my Father – even 11 years later – instead of fretting that I’m alone in my struggles.
I have a loving mother and amazing grandparents, all of whom pointed me to Christ. And yet, I find myself defaulting to isolation and disbelief.
Pause for a moment. Think about the men and women who come to the Union Gospel Mission, so many of them without parents, proper parenting, or any understanding of the love of Christ. They haven’t heard the news that they have a Father in heaven who loves them and who died for them. They are starting from ground-zero, and they are in their 30s, 40s, 50s and older.
Just because we’re told something is true doesn’t mean the reality of that truth is easily received or believed. These courageous men and women (my heroes) choose every day, to purposefully go against decades of training that they are alone, that they’ll never be free, that no one cares. They choose instead to believe their Father in heaven loves them and embraces them – especially in failure – and they keep taking steps forward.
What does it mean to be a Christian? It means being a son or daughter of God, and it means recovery – recovery from old, harmful thinking and actions, and choosing every day to believe the love of our Father, one step at a time:
“I am with you. I will keep you. I will bring you home.”
James Bishop is the multimedia producer for the Union Gospel Mission, producing video and radio spots telling the stories of UGM. He's also a devoted husband and father of four beautiful children who know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Daddy loves them.
Reflecting on the Father's love raises questions: Does he love some people more than others? That and other questions are explored honestly in our free e-book, "God Loves the Poor. What Does That Mean?"