“It would have been better not to have known Him, than to have learned Him wrong.”
The reality is that the first thing we understood about our true Father, came from how we knew our earthly one. If God is the same “yesterday, today, and forever,” then the fact we all seem to know Him differently must point to the unique experience we have had with Him and our particular perspective of Him. MacDonald and many others believe that how we knew our father (or other significant male role model in our early life) was the greatest determinant of that perspective.
There is obviously a little of a chicken-or-egg conundrum here. How we know Him determines our experience with Him and vice versa. But the unique way we “learned” Him and know Him seems to be less the particular issue that MacDonald is picking at here. He is fundamentally addressing the fact that learning Him wrong is worse than not knowing Him at all. Learned behaviors are hard to break, especially the ones that come to us earliest, when we are in the most formative stages of life and imprinting seems to run most deep.
I learned family wrong.
My childhood was so fragmented and my parents marriage so completely broken that I was left with no other choice than to seek out a completely new model for my life and marriage. It was so obviously wrong that what I “learned” was that I would have to choose a completely different path. I read every book I could get my hands on about what a healthy marriage and family should look like and sought out mentoring from the best examples I could find. And yet, despite how wrong I knew my experience of family was and how fervently I wanted to write a different story with mine, some of those practices, beliefs, and ideas, still turned up in my marriage and parenting. Imprinting from our childhood runs powerful and deep.
My father was a good and kind man, but he was not Jesus.
Turns out that the way we “learned” the Father not only affects the way we view Him and our relationship with Him, but also the posture we carry in our approach to life. The “orphan spirit” we find in many senior leaders is closely aligned with the entrepreneurial spirit required for launching into life and uncertainty on their own. One is the shadow effect of the other. It can also affect our submission to authority and the way we wield our own authority.
We were created for reconciliation and restoration
The iconic final scene in the movie “Field of Dreams” so beautifully illustrates the reconnecting of a son with his father, that it has powerfully affected many men’s lives. So many men, in fact, that Dwier Brown who played John Kinsella and is reunited with his son Ray (played by Kevin Costner) wrote a book about all the stories people told him. The owners of that Iowa cornfield tell stories of men that show up on that baseball diamond alone, walk the field, and are sometimes even seen crying their eyes out on hands and knees. That longing to be reconciled to the father is defining.
What we really desire is to be connected to our heavenly Father
A good friend of mine had a distant and absent father. The lone exception to that experience was when the two of them were hunting. For those few days a year on that lease, he had his undivided and complete attention. It may not surprise you that as an adult man, it is at that same place where that man feels closest to and best able to hear from the Father.
Whenever he most needs to hear from the Father, you will find him, journal in hand on the tailgate of his truck, sitting just outside the hunting lease. Expecting and finding Him there.
He knows the Father the way he “learned” the father. It is the same for all of us.
How did you learn the Father?
Did you enjoy your father’s delight, approval, and attention?
Are you reaching beyond the example of your father to find your true one?
What is learning Him wrong costing you?