As a special educator, I know that we learn from the concrete to the abstract. That is why it is so difficult for a person who has no sight to understand some concepts, such as tall. Yes, she may reach to the head of a man and know that 6’5” is tall. But what of a tall building? Or a tall mountain? Without craning my neck to look up at a skyscraper and know that the Twin Towers were twice as high, I would have no basis for comparison in grasping the concept of tall. Without looking down from the top of Mount Timpanogos to see people appearing the size of tiny mites, I would have little understanding of the distance from that height to the valley floor.
So it is with my understanding of Father in Heaven. All-knowing, able to establish ultimate justice in the most complex of relational inequities, and loving all humankind without contingencies – all these qualities without an earthly context, I would have great difficulty in imagining. Without the fathers I have known and loved throughout my 68 years on earth, I would have relatively little understanding of my Father in Eternity.
While making salad with my mother, I learned to remove the rusty bits from the ends and stems of the lettuce. “After all, your father works hard so we can buy this food. He deserves only the best in return.” Thus, I learned gratitude and acts of devotion for the bounty my earthly father provided. How many times have I heard in Church, that all we have has been provided by our Father in Heaven? This is the foundation for paying tithing and for our daily prayers of gratitude.
When my husband was the bishop, that is to say the “father” of our congregation, and the phone would ring in the middle of the night, he would rise from bed and speak into the receiver without a slur of sleepiness in his voice. I came to understand that a father is always available when those who depend on him are in need. This provides me with faith that my prayers will be heard and answered, no matter when I call out to my God in desperation.
In the home theater of my mind, I can still replay the image of my grandfather tossing aside a week’s worth of provisions to chase off the grimy man who tried to tempt me away from safety. Eggs cracked, oranges rolled away, bottles splintered and their contents splashed on the sidewalk, but I was preserved. My grandfather proved that my life was important to him, just as it is to my Father in Heaven, who allowed the sacrifice of his firstborn son in order to redeem me.
Despite the love shown toward offspring, what child obeys his parents at all times? Whether our sons heeded all our warnings or followed all our standards, my husband loved them and loves them still. He prays for them daily and serves the needs of at least one of them as often. More than any mortal father, our Immortal Father provides unconditional love. , and is motivated only for their greatest good. He holds us in His Infinite heart and mind at all times.
The fathers who have enriched my daily life on earth have taught me that our Divine Father wills me to succeed in my life’s mission. They have illustrated how He will provide me with the means to achieve my highest aspirations and how He will be there for me without question and without hesitation. Earthly fathers have encouraged and sacrificed as a reflection of our Heavenly Father. If human fathers can love without contingency and earn love and devotion in return, how much more this is true of the omnipotent Father of us all. The fathers I have known on Earth have shown in very real ways those qualities of Heavenly Father that might otherwise have remained mysterious abstractions, without meaning to me. I am grateful to have as my visual aids men who worthily live the ideals of Fatherhood that came from the Greatest Father I can imagine.