Our experience as parents helps us understand how Heavenly Father loves us
- Opening Song: O My Father, Hymn #292
- Scripture: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” Acts 17:28
When I was on my first military deployment my testimony of our relationship with our Heavenly Father started to grow. I know it is simple but I realized that Heavenly Father really is our “Father”. The relationships we share with our earthly parents and children are the same as our relationship with our Father in heaven.
Bishop Robert D. Hales stated something similar in an article titled How Will Our Children Remember Us?
“The calling of father or mother is sacred and carries with it great significance. … In many ways earthly parents represent their Heavenly Father in the process of nurturing, loving, caring, and teaching children. Children naturally look to their parents to learn of the characteristics of their Heavenly Father. After they come to love, respect, and have confidence in their earthly parents, they often unknowingly develop the same feelings towards their Heavenly Father.”
During my second military deployment, I had very little contact with my family. I went over six weeks without a phone call (I made about 5 short calls in a 4 month period), we didn’t have any email, and the mail was usually a month old when it arrived. Being separated from my family is one of the hardest things I’ve had to endure.
Genesis 3:24 starts with the words “So he drove out the man…” and at that time man became mortal and was cast out of the presence of our Heavenly Father. I can remotely imagine how difficult that must have been for Him to do and how difficult it is when each of our spirits leave to come to earth and receive a mortal body. I know that Heavenly Father misses us.
While on my third deployment, I talked to my wife once a week on the phone. I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to my children every week though. Sometimes when I called, they were busy watching television or playing a game and didn’t want to stop to talk on the phone. I know they don’t realize I won’t be on the phone later, but it is hard as a parent to not communicate with your children.
Our Father in Heaven wants us to communicate with him also and we can accomplish that through prayer. He wants to hear what we have to say and he wants to strengthen our relationship with him. He also wants to help guide us though our lives, but we become busy with the cares of the world and don’t take a break to “listen” to what he has to say.
Here is a portion from the bible dictionary about prayer.
“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7: 7-11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.”
To Not Forget
One of my biggest worries about leaving my family was that my children would forget me while I was gone. A year is a long time in a toddler’s memory. I went to great lengths to offer my children with reminders of “dad”. By recording my voice singing favorite songs and reading favorite stories, my children were able to hear my voice when they wanted. I also created a crude educational video, like “Barney”, staring dad so they could see and play with me.
Heavenly Father has left us reminders of our heavenly home and his being. Through the scriptures we can constantly stay close to our Father in heaven, but it is our responsibility to read them. We cannot know our Father if we do not read the reminders he provided us.
D&C 18:34-36 state:
These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man; For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them; Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words.”
Joy of Return
I heard so many stories of parents returning home to children who shy away. I expect I will return someday to children who resent me for being gone so often, but I have not shared that experience yet. Let me share one of my home comings with you.
When I returned from my first deployment I didn’t know what to expect and I was worried how my children would react. My oldest child was almost 3 and my second was almost 1. When I approached my family, all my fears subsided. My oldest child screamed in delight “DADDY!” as I approached and her arms were spread as wide as she could bear.
After a long hug with much more strength then I could expect a 3-year-old to have, I finally pushed her back enough to look at her face. A smile was glued on her face and she was speechless from delight. What really affected me was seeing little tears run down her cheeks. Never in my life would I have imagined a 3-year-old child could comprehend joy to such a point that she would cry.
I, too, was overwhelmed with joy. That was my first shock, the second came when I looked at my 11 month old and realized she wanted me to hold her too. I hadn’t seen this child since she was 5 months old and I never expected her to want to come to me.
As I’m getting ready to come home for a third time, I reflect on these memories and try to imagine our home coming with Heavenly Father. He looks forward to that day, He looks forward to this separation ending. I can only imagine the pain he must feel knowing that not every one of his children will return. When I see my Father in Heaven again, I want to know Him. I don’t want to shy away from Him because of fear, shame or resentment.
A Parent’s Love
I want to share one more experience with you. The first time it really occurred to me that our Heavenly Father truly is our “Father”, I was thinking about my family.
I thought about trying to deal with problems back at home and how I wanted to help fix them. I thought about missing moments in my family’s life, like watching a baby learning to crawl and walk. I thought about many more things and it occurred to me how much our Heavenly Father must miss us.
At that very moment the spirit very distinctly spoke to me and literally whispered
“I love you”
And as the calm washed over me I whispered “I love you too”.
This is my testimony of our Heavenly Father. I know He loves every one of us. I know He looks forward to our return. I know the pain He feels when we ignore Him and I know how willing He is to forgive us.
I know that through regular prayer and scripture study we can maintain our relationship with our Father in heaven. If we heed our heavenly Parent’s counsel, then our return home will truly be a joyous occasion.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen
Play a game of “Don’t Eat Pete”
Watch the Mormon Message Video “Earthly Father, Heavenly Father”