When we read the Bible, we don’t just want to hear a story about something that happened 2000 years ago; we want that story to be true for us now. In his course, Themes in the Gospel of John, Prof. N.T. Wright suggests beginning by reading John 1:1-18 and praying through it slowly. As you meditate on what you hear, locate yourself within the world of the Bible. The idea is to reflect with the Spirit about where you belong—right now—within the story, trusting that Jesus will reveal himself to you in the good news that John announces.
As I reflected on the first 18 verses of John, the part that wouldn’t let go of me was at the end of verse 12: He gave the right to become children of God. I recognized my need for Jesus to meet me at the points of past brokenness within my life and to come to him with my need for acceptance and belonging.
With the upcoming Fathers Day holiday, many have much to celebrate, and for that I am grateful and rejoice! I also know that this day may be painful for those whose fathers have died, or for children separated from fathers who deserted their families. Others may have had fathers who were physically present but emotionally absent. Some have mothers who played the roles of both parents.
I didn’t grow up with my biological father because my parents divorced when I was a baby. As a small child I regularly visited my dad, but as I grew older the visits became more infrequent when he moved out of state and I only saw him once a year. When I was 21 years old, I flew from my home in California to visit my Dad in Wisconsin. I was experiencing a personal crisis resulting from destructive choices and struggling with the effects of surviving past abuse. Yet, I was in much denial about these issues.
My Dad said that when he first saw me get off the plane he knew something was wrong, but he didn’t know what to do or how to help. He recognized how powerless he was to heal me. I was headstrong and stubborn, and he was wise enough to know that he was not going to be able to convince me with mere logic and reason to make different and healthier choices for myself. We had a good visit, but I was not yet ready to admit I needed help.
As I was getting ready to fly back home, he did not want to let me get back on the plane back to California because he was not certain if I would make it. Before I left, we got down on our knees and prayed. I remember that my Dad prayed that God would help to heal his daughter. I got back on a plane and returned home. My Dad was forced to leave me in the hands of his Heavenly Father, not knowing what the outcome might be.
For a while, things continued to gradually get worse.
My Dad, like the father in the story in John 4, returned home believing that God could and would help his daughter. And, God in his mercy provided healing. I eventually returned to Wisconsin to live with my Dad for the first time in my life. Although I now am married and don’t live with my father, over the past 20 years God has been teaching me and my father about the power of healing relationships.
You will find this theme of ‘relationships’ to be central in this course on the Gospel of John. You will also be invited to think deeply about the importance of spirituality, justice, freedom, and beauty, which are vital themes for our families, communities, and for own personal discipleship. As we celebrate fathers this weekend, may we also be prompted to pray for others and continue to locate ourselves within the good news that John is telling us: We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).