For Father's Day this year, I bought Michael a book to read to Rosa. It's called "Good Good Father for Little Ones" by Chris Tomlin and Pat Barrett. The book describes the many characteristics of our Good Good Father - he's a Fair King, a Strong Warrior, a Teacher, Doctor, Farmer, Friend, Leader and Daddy and I personally love the way it describes the different characteristics of God, particularly how God is a "daddy with a tender heart".
In psychology we talk about "Core Emotional Needs" - needs that our parents ideally meet as a child to help us develop a healthy understanding of both ourselves and the world. They are:
A secure attachment (i.e. bond or connection) to others
Freedom to express valid needs and feelings
Autonomy, competence and a sense of identity
Spontaneity and play
Realistic limits and self-control
Often, parents are unable to meet these needs due to a variety of factors both within and outside of their control. As children we develop unhelpful rules (otherwise known as core beliefs) about the world and others as consequence of our parents failing to meet our needs. For example, if our parents were unable to provide us with a security we may learn that the world (or other people) are not safe and have an inherent distrust of them.
These beliefs about ourselves and our parents can then echo into how we see God - our Heavenly Father. For example, if our parents did not encourage us to talk about our feelings, we may find it difficult recognize or even turn to God for comfort when we are scared, upset or anxious.
But we know this is not true - nor are we resigned to living like this for the rest of our lives. There is a parenting program called "Circle of Security" which focuses on helping parents meet their children's core emotional needs.
It involves three aspects of relationship to develop between the child and their caregivers:
Exploration - the needs for a secure base from which children can explore their world.
Care-seeking - the need for a safe haven or comfort in times of vulnerability.
Care-giving - the need for parenting and limitations.
The program is overall much too complicated to explain in a blog. But in sum it explains that children need to be encouraged to explore and that, rather than limiting children actions, parents should support, encourage and delight in their children doing so. It shows that children need someone to turn to and comfort, protect and organise their feelings when they are distressed or overwhelmed, and lastly, that children needs parents to be bigger, stronger and wiser when setting realistic limits over our children's behavior.
For us all, children as well as adults, how much more is God all about creating secure attachments with us. He encourages us to explore the world, and delights in us doing so (Zephaniah 3:17 ESV; Psalms 149:4 ESV); He provides us with comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3), support (Psalms 23:1 - 6) and helps us to manage our feelings (e.g. anxiety - Philippians 4:7- 8); and He is there to guide us continually. In doing so, he is our Everlasting Father, who loves us and can clearly and powerfully meet our emotional needs. How thankful we can be that this is our who our God and King is.
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
As we reflect on Isaiah 9:6 this Christmas, let's take the time to thank God that He is a source of eternally secure attachment, and lean in to building security with God in and through our Saviour and King, Jesus Christ.
- Written by Ashleigh Crosilla.