I’ve often heard it said that a person’s view of God is heavily influenced by the experience they’ve had with their earthly father. I believe this is true; it was definitely the case for me.
My father was a good man, of high morals and strong principles, but he tried so hard to be an effective father that he failed miserably as a dad. He seemed to feel great pressure to make sure his children were people of strong character, and he seemed to believe that happiness was incompatible with character.
My father was also very concerned that his children not become prideful, so he did not pay us compliments. I never heard my father say I was funny or smart or pretty or creative. Sadly, I can’t even imagine him saying those things to me. Growing up in my father’s house was stressful because I never felt like I could measure up to his expectations. Not surprisingly, this was also the view I had of God. I saw God as a disciplinarian—stern and strict—never warm or comforting or loving or playful. God, to me, was a hard taskmaster. I served God because I’d been taught to do so, but I didn’t have much of a relationship with him; I could never have imagined that he’d want much of a relationship with me.
One day, long after my childhood was over, and a few years after my dad’s death, I was at home by myself. My husband was at work; my girls were at school. I had a bad cold, so I was resting on the couch. It isn’t like me to watch a movie during the day—not even on a sick day—but for some reason I felt motivated to watch the movie Babe again. Babe is the story of a seemingly ordinary pig that actually turns out to be quite extraordinary because he has a natural talent for herding sheep. When the farmer who owns Babe realizes how special he is, he is amazed and begins working with his one-of-a-kind pig, to cultivate his skills.
Babe is a sweet, relaxing movie, and I was thoroughly enjoying watching it again. I had no idea that it would change my view of God, and ultimately, my view of myself.
I come to the point in the film where Babe is not feeling well. He’s dehydrated and hasn’t been eating. Farmer Hoggett is worried about him. The farmer’s wife would never allow a barnyard animal in the house, but she’s out of town, so Hoggett brings his now beloved pig inside. He settles Babe on the couch, and tucks him in with a warm blanket. He holds a baby bottle of water for Babe to drink. And then he begins to sing, “If I had words to make a day for you, I’d sing you a morning, golden and true . . .”
Something stirs inside me as I hear the farmer singing to his precious pet. I become teary-eyed. Then I watch as farmer Hoggett stands up, and while still singing, begins to dance what can only be described as a jig of joy! He is so pleased with this unique little creature, that he can’t hold back his emotions.
I had seen this movie before. How had I not remembered this scene? It was impacting me now with such power: as if it were actually taking place right in front me. I watch, transfixed, as the formerly stoic farmer exults over his pet.
I begin to cry. I pause the movie. Something about this scene touches me at my core. I cry deeply and loudly (feeling so glad to be the only one at home!). Then as I grow quiet, still thinking of the farmer rejoicing over his pig, somewhere in my mind or spirit I hear a loving, fatherly voice say, “Katie, this is how I feel about you.”
I cry some more.
As I contemplate the sofa/dancing/singing scene, I am Babe, and God is the farmer. I sit for a long while, with the VCR on pause, just thinking about the implications of what I’ve seen—the new realization of my relationship with God, and his relationship with me.
I’ve always loved the verse in Zephaniah that reads, “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” But, though it was a favorite verse, I’d never really believed it could apply to me. Not until that day on my couch, watching a farmer and a pig.
Since that day, from time to time, I feel God’s pleasure. I sense that he is looking at me with fondness and kindness and joy. In those moments I sense that he is so very happy that he created me. The funny thing is, those moments don’t come when I’ve just done something remarkable. They come at times when I stop to admire a beautiful tree, or I laugh at the expression on the face of a dog, or I giggle at a pun I’ve made up in my head—one too corny to share with another human, or when I simply lift my face toward heaven and smile, to acknowledge Him: my Father who loves me.