I was confirmed a little over 50 years ago. We met in the church “classroom building”, a two room wooden structure that had been moved to the back lot of the church. My pastor was Jacob Aall Otteson Lien, named after one of the founders of the Norwegian Lutheran Church. Jack Lien was a dynamic, intense man who really should have been a seminary professor. A voracious reader, he commonly read three books a week, a history book, a theology book and a popular book. I still have my confirmation book and have looked at it over the years. But what I remember about his teaching was the concept of the Father God. A God who is loving and tender to his children but strict and demanding of them also. Like a good parent, limits were set and the family was happy inside those limits but also knew the consequences of going outside the bounds.
I was blessed to have a father and mother who fit that mold. My own father believed in discipline and boundaries but guided with a loving hand. Dad was kind and concerned about my brothers and me, as was my mom. Dad was and mom is the image of a true Christian couple. Thus the concept of a “Father” God is still a comforting image for me. And, of course, the Father-God’s son is my brother, someone who understands me and can walk with me, in my shoes.
I have often wondered how the child of not-so-model parents could appreciate and understand a “Father-God” in a manner similar to mine. Can they understand the love and strength of that parent-child-brother relationship the same way I can. I don’t know of course, and can only pray that they can feel the depth of the love our Father has for us.
In 1994, Grace Lutheran, the church that my parents helped start in Conroe, TX, held an appreciation dinner for my mom and dad. I wrote a poem about our family church history, of which the following is the last four verses.
The concept of the Father God, so important to Jack Lien,
Is special and is truth for me, as can be simply seen.
For if God is like my Father, and Jesus is his Son,
Then Jesus is my brother, my family wrapped up in one.
They’ve been great parents, mom and dad, their faith is sure and strong,
They have led me in my faith, and taught me right from wrong.
They taught right living to us boys, and led us in the chase,
So it is fitting for their church, to provide them with its Grace.
Thomas V. Edgar, P.E., Ph.D., F.ASCE, is an emeritus professor in Civil Engineering after teaching at UW for 34 years. He received the Ellbogen Lifetime Teaching award in 2014. He and wife Sally have two adult children, Erik and Elizabeth.