There was a time, not so long ago, when my younger son, Isaiah, followed me wherever I went. At just one and a half years old, he constantly vied for my attention through his incessant calling of “Papa! Papa!”.

Whenever I was near him, he clamoured to be with or carried by me, earning him the title “Papa’s boy”.

When I returned home from work, sometimes with my wife, Isaiah would run towards me in eager anticipation to be carried, while calling out “Papa!” in great excitement. This was to the dismay of my wife, who frequently reminded him that she was the one who had carried him for nine months before birth—only to be ignored by him when I was around.

A Father’s Shadow

Aware of my wife’s sacrificial love for our children, I empathised with her feeling of rejection by Isaiah when I was around. She would often ask him, “Are you Papa’s shadow?” whenever he stuck close to me.

I was amused to see how much Isaiah adored me and how I was the center of his attention —without having to do very much. He was indeed my little ‘shadow’. Not only that, he mimicked my actions, gestures, and words, giggling to himself as he did so.

Isaiah’s dependence on and desire for me gave me a deep sense of pride and joy as his father. With both my sons growing up so quickly, I’m often prompted to reflect on this season of fatherhood and my relationship with my heavenly Father.

As I thought about how Isaiah loved being his ‘Papa’s shadow’, I wondered to myself: Do I seek to be my Father’s ‘shadow’ too?

Time with My Heavenly Father

In the busyness of life, I often struggle to spend time with my heavenly Father. As a working parent, the only pockets of time when I can pray in solitude are after dropping my kids off at school in the morning, and when the rest of the family have turned in for the night.

During the course of the work day, I am typically caught up with work demands and challenges, and do not give much thought to God’s presence with me. In fact, I struggle even to briefly set aside what I am doing to pray.

God is not somewhere far off or available only at certain times. I can call out to Him in prayer anytime.

This is a far cry from how Isaiah related to me. Whenever he felt sad or upset, he looked for me. Somehow, he knew that I would be there when he turned to me in his time of need —whether for a hug or words of comfort, or simply just to be in my presence.

Observing how my son sought me in things big and small made me realise how I tend to forget that God is “our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1, emphasis mine). God is not somewhere far off or available only at certain times. I can call out to Him in prayer anytime.

As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). God wants us to turn to and commune with Him moment by moment, day by day.

Unceasing Prayer in God’s Constant Presence

These days, at work, I try to be more conscious to pray, petition, and thank God throughout the day (Philippians 4:6), just like a child goes to his father to share everything on his mind and heart. This means making prayer a first priority—rather than a last resort—amidst the cares, worries, and disappointments of each work hour and day.

At home, I also attempt to weave in prayer throughout the day, outside of the more ‘structured’ times of prayer before meals and bed. For example, if the boys do something wrong, I gently remind them that they ought to confess and apologise not just to me, but to our heavenly Father as well. I might say, “God isn’t pleased when we do the wrong thing. How about we say a prayer to God right now, to confess what we’ve done and to share what we can do better next time?”

These days, at work, I try to be more conscious to pray, petition, and thank God throughout the day, just like a child goes to his father to share everything on his mind and heart.

In so doing, I hope to cultivate a heart of unceasing prayer in my children and me, and an awareness of God’s constant presence.

Pleasing My Father

For toddler Isaiah, I was his entire world. And so, he did what he knew would please me and make me laugh. It could be as simple as making a funny sound. When I laughed, he laughed too. Encouraged, he continued making that funny sound—simply because he knew it made me happy.

Likewise, when aware of his wrongdoing, he timidly pled “Papa?” in a bid to reconnect with me, and seek reassurance that our relationship was still right.

That season of fatherhood enabled me to see how I, as his father, was his first point of reference and his motivation to do right. His love for his papa prompted him to spend time with me and make me happy.

Knowing that Isaiah was my ‘shadow’ gave me immense pride and joy. It also prompted me to ponder over the pleasure God must have, when His children constantly look for opportunities to spend time with Him, and when they strive to please Him.

God’s Fatherly Heart

With Isaiah a little older now, I find myself having less of a ‘shadow’ around me. I am glad that he has moved on from being ‘Papa’s shadow’, to welcoming and enjoying the presence of others (much to my wife’s delight).

I often look back at that period of time with fondness, giving thanks to God for using Isaiah to provide me with a glimpse of His fatherly heart for us. I see His great delight when we seek to please Him, spend time with Him, and grow to be more like Him.

While Isaiah may not shadow his earthly father as much now, I pray that my sons—as well as I—will always shadow the One who loves us unconditionally.

Give Us This Day 17

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Ian is a husband and father to two sons. An introvert and a self-diagnosed dyslexic, he struggles with words and communicating clearly the many ideas that stream through his head each day. Staying behind his camera capturing the beauty of God’s creation is where he’s most comfortable. When asked to write, he requires a cup of coffee, quiet environment, and a super duper strong editorial team to make his thoughts understandable.
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