Don’t Mess with Dad!

This afternoon I received a text from a friend in Australia sharing an all too common story. Someone they knew was out at an event last night and had her drink spiked with ketamine (date rape drug). The police took care of her as she was completely wasted. Then she ended up in hospital where she fortunately was released this morning, healthy but very shaken by the incident.

I think of the coward who slipped the drug into her drink and feel absolute contempt and anger. As a father I imagine someone doing that to one of my daughters. I’d want to fly across the world to be beside them. And a significant part of me would be so furious I’d want to find the guilty party and beat his bloody brains out – and ask forgiveness later. The message? Don’t mess with my daughter. My blood boils even as I write this, the passion runs so deep. A father has to let his children go to experience life. But they are never far from his heart, and any sense of need or threat would cause him to drop everything to respond, protect, encourage, and support.

As every father knows all too well there are moments when you want to advise and help but your child turns away and won’t hear a word. That’s part of the difficult letting go. Sometimes it means allowing those you love to experience life and learn for themselves, even when their drink is spiked by a friend or a stranger. And when they come home you hold your tongue and never say, “I told you so.”

Later today in my workshop I was making fences to place around our raised vegetable beds to deter the cutest of ‘bunnies’ that appear to love kale and other kitchen crops. I went down to secure the fences and the rabbits hopped away innocently munching dandelions. I wished we could sit down and have a bunny summit. “You are welcome in the garden but please leave the vegetable area alone. Because if these fences don’t keep you out I may have to take more drastic action.” We could easily live in harmony, there’s plenty for all of us, but there are limits. The insurmountable challenge is that we can’t communicate in order to foster understanding and trust. Consequently I build barriers and the rabbits bunny-hop around and flee for the forest whenever I approach. Not a harmonious truce or outcome really.

I’ve been a bit of a rabbit myself over the years. Hopping around here and there, sometimes munching where I should not have trespassed and muttering about a God who puts up fences to spoil my fun. I haven’t had my drink spiked but on occasion it’s felt that destructive elements have been dropped into my circumstances and all hell has broken loose. What happened there, and why? God I thought you cared? One minute I’m hopping around declaring my freedom and the next I’m questioning and blaming God for whatever ticks me off. I vent in bunny babble and hear nothing back except the slap of my paws on the ground. Living in confusion, fear, and anger is not life giving. God lurking in the background with a fist-full of fenceposts.

Then one day I hear the strangest thing. An older, wiser, rather moth-eaten rabbit told me. He had a glint in his big brown button eyes and the hint of a smile beneath grey whiskers. He said that God, the gardener, loved us rabbits so much that he wanted to break the communication barrier between us. It caused him pain to see us so afraid of him and without understanding. So he became a baby bunny and grew among us, similar in many ways but wonderfully different in others. His greatest gift was being able to talk to us in a language we could understand and reveal and do things no other rabbit had ever done before. A tear formed in the old rabbits eyes and his whiskers quivered. “He loves us, you know. Like a father, but even more than that. Even when some hostile rabbits killed his son and strung him up on a fence he never withdrew his love. You see he wasn’t putting up fences to restrict our freedom, he was loving us in our ignorance offering protection.” My heart beat faster and was strangely warmed by the words of my older friend. Love and hope began to push aside the darkness like the breaking of a new day as he promised to tell me more.

When I think of a young girl having her drink spiked my father’s heart response is a pale reflection of God the father’s love. It took far too long in my life to really hear the profound, life-changing message of his love most eloquently revealed through his son, Jesus. I’d heard the dogma and doctrine, but it was the relationship that my heart cried out for. No longer an orphan. He fights for me and has promised to be at my side far more powerfully than I can ever link arms with my daughters. But like every loving father who has chosen to let his children go, he never forces himself upon me. Sometimes I draw away because of hurt and things I don’t understand. Why does he not kill the guy who spiked my circumstances? It’s not just, or fair! Eventually, when I slow down, he shows me his love for that person as well. Yes, his actions are despicable, but he remains beloved but lost. Mercy and grace will change the world and touch hearts, not vengeance. As I have loved you…..

When left to my own understanding it doesn’t take long before I’ve lost the plot and feel angry and powerless about so much in the world. I remember as a child feeling safe at home as my parents provided shelter and took care of the wider world. Many, many, years later it’s the love of God my father who provides peace, assurance, and love that sustains in a world that remains chaotic and often cruel. He has promised to be present and to never abandon or leave me/us. He is for me with a passion that I’m still learning to believe and receive. And the same is true for you.

Father’s Day can be a challenge for many and a wonderful celebration for others. Because of God the father’s revelation of love in Jesus none of us need be fatherless or orphans. Try not to focus on who spiked the drink but rather receive and be embraced by the one who rescues, supports, and encourages. The one who affirms his love for you and me today. The one who draws us close and says, “I want to be a dad, not a doctrine. Anyone who messes with you will have to deal with me, remember that!” Then bunny-hop off and enjoy your day, secure within his care and affection.

Happy Father’s Day!

John Cox

Christian Author and Counsellor

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