When I was fresh out of college, I moved overseas. And while I was living in Sofia, Bulgaria, my father used to send me postcards. The internet was still in its infancy (a reality my kids find impossible to fathom), so people sometimes sent real stamped paper mail that arrived in actual mailboxes. Emojis hadn’t even been invented.
I wish I had those cards now. One downside of the nomadic life I’ve lived is that precious things often get lost. And my dad’s postcards were precious, not just because they were handwritten, but because they were hand painted. Sometimes in colored pastels and sometimes in watercolors—every postcard my dad sent was a work of art that he made just for me. He gifted me a small personal collection of petite paintings all my own. And I loved them, not just because they were lovely, but because they were from him.
To put the import of this sweet gesture in perspective, you have to understand that at the time my dad was super busy. I mean, crazy busy. He was the president of a seminary with thousands of students, and he was speaking every weekend at a mega-church in Dallas. He was always working, studying, meeting, speaking, zooming from one place to the next, averting crises, navigating politics. He barely had time to brush his teeth, much less design hand-made postcards to send to his daughter an ocean away. But somehow, he made time to create beautiful things just for me.
Getting to Know a Creative God
Creativity is one of the attributes I love most about my dad. He’s an idea man—a visionary—who also loves to work hard, bringing into being the things he imagines. Some of my best memories with him revolve around making things. One fall when we were home for a few weeks, we designed a stone patio in a stand of oaks and maples in his backyard. He had a load of flag stones delivered, and working together along with my husband we leveled the earth, and laid each of those stones by hand in a bed of sand, later filling the gaps with small pebbles and moss. He added a fire pit in the middle and a ring of chairs. Every year we return to visit, we sit out there with the kids and roast marshmallows under the stars.
I’m aware that there’s a sense in which my perception of God as Father is shaped by my experiences with my dad. My father wasn’t distant, detached or absentee—he was near, available, involved. And so, I tend to think of my heavenly Father as similarly interested in my daily comings and goings. Luckily, that perception also jives with Scripture, which testifies repeatedly to the nearness of a God who walked among us, and to his attentiveness even to small things, like the number of hairs on our heads.
My dad wasn’t particularly strict, but he was extraordinarily generous. So I tend to think of God as the most benevolent of heavenly patriarchs, ladling out unconditional love in the same way my dad does to me.
Now I know it’s critical to balance my experience with my own father with the testimony of scripture regarding the nature of God as Father. I may prefer to have a God who’s only loving and kind, but I would never deny that God, in addition to being those things, is also just, holy, and righteous.
Still, before we meet God as a sovereign, law giver and judge, we meet him as Maker. Our very first impression of God in Genesis is as a creative, as a visionary. God sees formless chaos, and he envisions the world in all its organic wild gorgeousness. And he takes the void and shapes it into something magnificent, something essentially good. From dark chaos he creates illuminated cosmos.
Today, on Father’s Day, I’ve been thinking of how much I love my dad, and also about how much I love the fact that he showed me the character of a God who is creative, generative, productive.
A God with Clay in His Hands
I praise God for being, “the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them” (Psalm 146). The wonder that God spun the world into orbit is marvelous enough, but I also realize that God’s creativity didn’t expire with one explosive creative act. God’s sense of innovation is never spent.
God keeps making things and people, bearers of his image. The prophet Isaiah paints a picture of God as a potter, shaping those he loves into works of art (Isaiah 29:16, 45:9). Reading these passages, I imagine God wearing overalls with clay coating his fingers as he sits at a wheel turning my life in his hands. What an extraordinarily earthy glimpse of a God who is intimately involved in the lives of those in his care.
The image of God as the Creator helps me appreciate his transcendence—his status as a being who is wholly other with an existence worlds beyond my comparatively miniscule experience. God is gloriously more mysterious than my severely limited perspective can fathom. But the image of God as Potter emphasizes his immanence—his nearness to me and his attentive, involved presence. It shows me that he is gloriously more available than I suppose.
In both cases, God is a Maker. He’s a Father who’s endlessly creative. And he invites us to make right alongside him.