Five Everyday Words for God
Father, Mother, Friend, Lover, and Husband
By Samuel Dickey Gordon
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The purpose of prayer is to get God’s will done. What a stranger God is in His own world! Nobody is so much slandered as He. He comes to His own, and they keep Him standing outside the door, like a pilgrim of the night, staff in hand, while they peer suspiciously at Him through the crack of the hinges.
Some of us shrink back from making a full surrender of life to God. And if the real reason were known, it may be found to be that we are afraid of God. We fear He will put something bitter in the cup, or some rough thing in the road. And without doubt the reason we are afraid of God is because we do not know God. The great prayer of Jesus’ heart that night with the eleven was, “that they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou didst send.”
To understand God’s will we must understand something of His character, Himself. There are five common everyday words I want to bring you to suggest something of who God is. They are familiar words, in constant use.
The first is the word father. “Father” stands for strength, loving strength. A father plans, and provides for, and protects his loved ones. … If you will think of the finest father ever you knew that anybody ever had; think of him now. Then remember this, God is a father, only He is so much finer a father than the finest father you ever knew of. And His will for your life—I am not talking about heaven and our souls just now; that is in it too—His will for your life down here these days is a father’s will for the one most dearly loved.
The second word is a finer word. Because woman is finer than man, and was made, and meant to be, this second word is finer than the first. I mean the word mother. If father stands for strength, mother stands for love—great, patient, tender, fine-fibred, enduring love. What would she not do for her loved one! Why, not unlikely she went down into the valley of the shadow that that life might come; and did it gladly with the love-light shining out of her eyes. Yes, and would do it again, that the life may remain if need be. That is a mother. You think of the finest mother ever you knew. And the suggestion brings the most hallowed memories to my own heart. Then remember this: God is a mother, only He is so much finer a mother than the finest mother you ever knew.
The references in scripture to God as a mother are numerous. “Under His wings” is a mother figure. The mother-bird gathers her brood up under her wings to feel the heat of her body, and for protection. The word mother is not used for God in the Bible. I think it is because with God “father” includes “mother.” With God, all the strength of the father and all the fine love of the mother are combined in that word “father.” And His will for us is a mother’s will, a wise, loving mother’s will for the darling of her heart.
The third word is friend. I do not mean to use it in the cheaper meaning. There is a certain kindliness of speech in which all acquaintances are called friends. Tupper says we call all men friends who are not known to be enemies. But I mean to use the word in its finer meaning. Here, a friend is one who loves you for your sake only and steadfastly loves without regard to any return, even a return love. … If you may have in your life one or two real friends, you are very wealthy. If you will think for a moment of the very best friend you ever knew anybody to have. Then remember this: God is a friend. Only He is ever so much better a friend than the best friend you ever knew of. And the plan He has thought out for your life is such a one as that word would suggest.
The fourth word, I almost hesitate to use, yet I am sure I need not here. The hesitancy is because the word and its relationship are spoken of lightly, frivolously, so much, even in good circles. I mean that rare fine word lover. Where two have met, and acquaintance has deepened into friendship, and that in turn into the holiest emotion, the highest friendship. What would he not do for her! She becomes the new human centre of his life. In a good sense he worships the ground she treads upon. And she—she will leave wealth for poverty if only so she may be with him in the coming days. She will leave home and friends, and go to the ends of the earth if his service calls him there. You think of the finest lover, man or woman, you ever knew anybody to have. Then remember this, and let me say it in soft, reverent tones: God is a lover. Shall I say in yet more reverent voice, a sweetheart-lover. Only He is so much finer a lover than the finest lover you ever knew of. And His will, His plan for your life and mine—it hushes my heart to say it—is a lover’s plan for his only loved one.
The fifth word is this fourth word a degree finer spun, a stage farther on, and higher up: the word husband. This is the word on the man side for the most hallowed relationship of earth. This is the lover relationship in its perfection stage. … In God’s thought a husband is a lover plus. He is all that the finest lover is, and more; more tender, more eager, more thoughtful. Two lives are joined and begin living one life. Two wills, yet one. Two persons, yet one purpose. Duality in unity. Will you call to mind for a moment the best husband you ever knew any woman to have. Then remember this, that God is a husband; only He is an infinitely more thoughtful husband than any you ever knew. And His will for your life is a husband’s will for his life’s friend and companion.
Now, please, do not you take one of these words, and say, “I like that”; and you another and say, “That conception of God appeals to me,” and you another. How we do whittle God down to our narrow conceptions! Take all five words, and think the finest meaning into each, and then put them all together to get a close-up idea of God. He is all that, and more.
You see, God is so much that it takes a number of earth’s relationships put together to get a good suggestion of what He is. He is a father, a mother, a friend, a lover, a husband.
And God’s will for us is the plan of such a God as that. It includes the body, health and strength; the family and home matters; money and business matters; friendships, including the choice of life’s chief friend; it includes service, what service and where; and constant guidance; it includes the whole life, and the world of lives. All this He has thought into, lovingly, carefully. … That is God.
Abridged from Quiet Talks on Prayer by Samuel Dickey Gordon
(Fleming H. Revell, 1904). Published on Anchor April 2013.
Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.