One of the highest rated sitcoms of the late 90s/early 2000s was Everyone Loves Raymond. I didn’t watch it very often while it was airing original episodes. I didn’t find it funny.
I have caught a few episodes in syndication since and now find the show to be hilarious. I think the reason why I didn’t find it funny before and do now is that the show ended in 2005, and I got married in 2006.
Many of the shows jokes were exaggerations on the dynamics of married life. Until I was married, I didn’t understand why the situations and reactions were truly funny. The same is true about how Ray reacts to and interacts with his three children on the show – it is much funnier when you can watch through the lens of being a dad.
Growing up I had a typical kid’s view of my dad. I knew he deserved respect, he provided me with all that I needed (and a lot of what I wanted), and I knew that he loved me. I also tested his patience with me and the limits of forgiveness. In truth, I have been extremely blessed to have the dad I have. He is not perfect, but he sacrificed so much so that our family could have a comfortable life. He still to this day helps me when I come to him, whether it is for a handyman project, advice or free babysitting when my wife and I need a short break from our children. I have what many people don’t – a very positive image of what a father should be.
Even with that image, it wasn’t until I had children of my own that I was able to understand love from a father’s point of view. I took for granted that my dad wanted to provide for me, would have infinite patience (again, I really tested this) and would be the superhero that I thought he was. Now, with my children, I know that I want to give them everything they need, most of what they want, keep them away from harm, push them to be their best, succeed in their endeavors, but not be scared to fail. I want to have patience with them, forgive them when they need it and ultimately love them so they will have no doubt that I do.
Do I succeed all the time? No. I am an imperfect father just like every other father. Well, not quite every other father – there is one exception.
Throughout the Bible God is referred to as Father. While our earthly fathers all have faults and shortcomings, our Heavenly Father does not. God is much more than just a father; the metaphor is used to give us a picture of the relational nature and desire that He has. He is not a watchmaker, who simply winds up the universe and lets it go, or a Superior Being sitting on a mountain top ready to zap us with lightning bolts if we get out of line. He genuinely wants to have a loving relationship with each one of us.
Our minds cannot fathom the love God has for us, and the relationship between humanity and God is clouded due to our sin. So to help us understand God uses the imagery of the paternal relationship to help us comprehend His nature. He wants us to come to Him with our burdens and tell him what we need and want. He is patient with us, and has offered us unconditional forgiveness.
I have been a son my whole life and have understood what it is to receive the love of a father. In becoming a father myself, I have gotten a glimpse of how much God loves me. Though my vision is marred by my own sinful nature, my understanding of the symbolism has been taken to a new level. I have a better understanding of how desperately He wants to meet all our needs, guide us in His way and wash away that sinful nature so we can one day find perfect rest in Him.