Post image for Incarcerated – Part 7

Incarcerated – Part 7

by DanWolgemuth on June 14, 2019

“What is a Christian? The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God for his Father.”

I read these words, shortly after graduating from college in 1977. They were penned by J.I. Packer in his classic book, Knowing God.

The beauty, simplicity, and clarity of this description has never left me.

God for his Father…

How fitting on this Father’s Day weekend. How aligned and inspiring.

Yet, as I sat for hours with the teenage residents of the JDC, this imagery moved from being compelling to being daunting.

Every in-depth conversation that I had with an incarcerated young man touched on family. It’s typically an easy place to build a relational foundation. And so I built. One conversation after another. Each more fluidly and with more velocity than I had hoped. But every conversation turned a similar corner at the intersection of “Dad.”

Common and disturbing consistency surfaced with these young men. Ironically, none of them voiced anger or resentment… rather, a complete sense of irrelevance. Missing in action. Dad after dad after dad.

Perhaps that’s why a mature man is like comfort food to these young men. I sensed a deep craving in each of them to connect, to engage, to be heard… and the reality was, I had nowhere else to go, and no distractions to investigate or compete with. I was theirs for 26 hours. And they were mine.

In the classroom of prayer, Jesus taught us how we should address God. It could have been, “Dear Sir,” or “Most reverent and holy one,” or “Just, fierce and righteous God…,” but no, Jesus informs our language and theology by telling us that as His followers we can refer to God as “Our Father…” – an invitation into community, and perhaps more specifically, into family, with God as our loving and perfect Dad.

Our advocate.
Our rescuer.
Our protector.
Our provider.
Our joy.
Our identity.
Our inheritance.
Our guarantee.
Our forgiver.
Our mentor.
Our friend.
Our entertainment.
Our love.
Our hope.
Our Father…

Every young man I met, every pair of eyes that I looked into, every voice I heard needed a father, the Father. And it wasn’t as though they had met him and rejected him, no, they were living in a father-void, a relational abyss that they filled in unhealthy and desperate ways.

The fact that my business card said “President/CEO” didn’t matter to these young men, what mattered was that I understood the heart of a father. I am one. In flawed and imperfect ways, but I’m a dad. It’s a title that humbles and inspires me.

And so, in some mysteriously beautiful way, when these young men started building a relationship with me, they were getting a glimpse of their Heavenly Father, and as such, a glimpse into what it means to be a Christian.

Young men without dads, but not without a Father.

Father’s Day will never be the same.

Into the void… a father. Me. And through me, a broken, imperfect yet engaging glimpse into hope.

He is our Father.

… yes, to be continued… I simply can’t stop.

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