When I was five years old my family lived in a place called San Angelo, a midsized West Texas city where my dad began his career working for the State of Texas, and my mom started out as a school teacher. Not far from our subdivision was O.C. Fisher Lake, which among other benefits, provided a popular recreation area for many San Angoleans, including our family.
I don’t remember much about the lake other than that it was there that I saw a car-boat for the first time, or maybe it was a boat-car. Anyhow the official name for it was an Amphicar. Most were small convertibles with propellers jutting out just below the back bumper. Any fortunate motorist who was in possession of one could drive right off the road and into the lake and putter around like it was normal. To a five year old these cars were fantastic and right out of something I might read in my many D.C. comic books. And we saw these Amphicars quite often on our lake.
The other O.C. Fisher Lake attraction I recall was a small beach where West Texas families could pretend they were on the French Riviera or the romantic Ipanema as they spread out on the dirt posing as sand. They drank refreshments, sunbathed and often dipped their toes in the water. My parents enjoyed taking me and my brother there often. My brother’s name was Chris Paul. He was only two years old at that time and he suffered from a severe form of Cerebral Palsy, so he was greatly limited as to what he was able to enjoy on those days at the lake, and sadly for the rest of his life. However he loved splashing in the water with the assistance of my mom and dad.
I likewise loved to play in the water and usually I was well supervised. However on one particular visit to the lake I managed to tug one of those old thin and flimsy air-filled plastic floating mattresses off of the beach and into the shallow water while my parents napped on their beach towels. Then the fun began. I mostly laid on it face up and allowed the small waves to push me up and down and about the lake. I didn’t yet know how to swim so I was under strict orders to stay near the shore; in the shallows, and away from the deeper water. Other kids were floating about on their own plastic vehicles including a girl who was probably around eight years old and who sat regally aloft this magnificent plastic air-filled swan like a she was the Queen of O.C. Fisher Lake. I remember envying her swan in comparison to my own very humble maritime craft. She also was in deeper waters so I slowly paddled my way toward her to get a better look of her impressive swan. I eventually reached her and interacted with her as I floated past. It suddenly dawned on me that I was still moving out away from the lake’s shore and I was getting further away from the swan-girl. For the first time in my young life I felt a sense of dread. I could see my parents still napping on the shore and started to call out, ”Daddy, Mommy! Help!” They didn’t move at all. I looked desperately at the swan-girl and she was attempting to paddle my way but couldn’t seem to generate any speed. So I floated and yelled; and floated and yelled.
I started to panic as I saw my parents becoming visibly smaller on the beach. I was well on my way to the center of the lake. Did I mention that I didn’t know how to swim, and how incredibly flimsy my mattress was? I clung on to it now for dear life. Suddenly I could hear my parents yelling and screaming and they seemed very far off. My father leapt into the water and swam as hard and as fast as he could toward me all the while yelling “Hang on Tommy! Please hang on! I’m coming! I’m coming!” I remember being terrified, but I could see my father coming closer and it gave me great hope. Finally, in what seemed like an eternity my father reached my craft; grasped onto me and collapsed across the mattress while be struggled to regain his breath. After he recovered his strength, he managed us back to the shore and into the arms of my crying mother. In later years he admitted that his swim to rescue me was the most exhausting physical exertion that he had ever experienced in his entire life. And this from a man not long out of the military and duty in the Korean war.
When I read Jesus praying “My Father in heaven” I can’t help but think of my earthly father and how many times he has come to my rescue as if no one, nor nothing else mattered to him apart from his son’s well being. I also observed him pour his life, energy and resources exhaustively into my severely disabled brother with little regard for his own comfort, convenience and life circumstance. As a father myself, I find his example almost impossible to emulate even with my own beloved sons. In Matthew 7:11 Jesus says,
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
My father has never seemed very evil to me, but like all of us he is a flawed sinner. Jesus’ point being that if you can trust a flawed sinner, then how much more can you trust your perfect Father in heaven.
My brother died in 1994 and he was virtually a vegetable all of his life. However he would laugh with glee everytime my father came into his sight. He adored his flawed daddy, as do I. And so did Jesus adore his absolutely perfect daddy. So much so that he did only what his father led him to do for the entire thirty three years that he walked on earth. He even died a horrendous death on the cross only because his Father asked him to do so.
I don’t think it’s by chance that Jesus starts The Lord’s Prayer with addressing God as Our Father. That’s the primary way that Jesus addressed him throughout his life and ministry. And as you will soon read there is something very, very significant about the concept of father as a role model and a archetype for God. It will become obvious as to why Jesus chooses to reference his Father as our Father. What a mind-blowing privilege that is.