His name was Leon, but I got to call him Papa. Leon was a fisherman; he filled the position with all that could be expected from a Gordon’s frozen fish commercial. He was rough around the edges, with a scent of salt and sun that lingered in the air around him. Leon’s arms were large and cut from years of hauling the nets from the ocean’s sandy bottom up into his small wooden boat which leaked just slowly enough to complete a day’s catch. Shaving daily for him seemed to be much more trouble than it was worth, so he normally bared a three day shadow of gray whiskers on his sun withered face. It was the face of my maternal grandfather.
Papa, on the surface of things, appeared to be a hard man, and I suppose by outsider's view, parts of that characterization were true. But deep inside his cerulean eyes was a heart soft towards me. I don’t really know why it was this way because he could rage with the best of them. Papa could sling a knife as well as a cast net, true to his intended target every time. There were always stories of his famous brawls which echoed through family history where times in a fishing village were only for the tough of heart. But for me he had a place of love, a place of human grace.
The truth for many of us is that love and grace are very hard things to trust; we desire both, but trusting that love and grace are ours is like arm wrestling with a fisherman named Leon. The prospects of victory are dubious at best.
Most of our doubtful feelings come from a poor understanding of God’s attribute of love. We all have a tendency to live in family rumors of an angry God, who at a flash could turn on us with His heavenly sword. We mistake God’s justice as His only concern and quickly forget that God is just and merciful at the same time. We perceive God as an unknown personality flexed for wrathful indignation towards us. But deep inside His invincible eyes is a heart that beats soft towards us. Yes, our Father in heaven is the strong and violent God against His enemies; yes, His strategy is strong and sure for the enemy’s defeat, yes, the doom is sure! But we are not His enemy’s, we are His lineage, His progeny. While the world must fear the name of Yahweh, we call Him Abba (Papa) Father.
One of my favorite memories of Papa was when I was 17 years old. I thought I had become too old to kiss his face. As I walked into his house I passed by him with a brushing touch on his arm, as though I had become too sophisticated for such displays of childish affection. Papa’s voice raised up loud and called my name with a firmness I had not been used to in my past,” Brad, you come here and kiss your Papa, don’t you ever think you come into my house and not love me. You’re mine.” I was afraid, but not of wrath. I was afraid that I had made my grandfather feel as though I was too important to exchange love with him. I was afraid I had forgotten his place of love and grace for me.
I just wonder sometimes if we are afraid of the wrong things with God our Father. I wonder if really trust there is no condemnation for us. Do we just come into His loving presence with a brush of self-righteous piety on His arm? Do we communicate a fear of condemnation? I think we should fear more coming into His house not kissing Him rather than embracing His mighty presence with our affections. Perhaps we need to remember His place of love and grace for us. Because the cross Jesus has expired the anger of a betrayed Father we need no fear of attack but rather expectations of His affections. If we look really hard in His eyes we will see the reflection of Christ, the Beloved.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
Love and Grace, Pastor Brad
Amanda Williams is a forty-year old wife and mother of two who can still swing her pony tail and display just a tad of sass. She is also a Jesus loving girl who realizes she is nothing without the One who saved her. Amanda has two degrees specializing in serving students with special needs and is currently working in the field of Leadership Development. She is a Christian author, speaker, blogger, and publisher who loves serving beside her husband at her local place of worship, First Baptist Church of Ocala.