Finding the Father


Last Christmas, I received the wonderful gift of a subscription to a genealogy service.

I’ve spent hours over the holidays sifting through records related to the Webbs, Hawkins, Kings and Winters. It’s been fascinating unravelling the history of my extended family and I’ve made some interesting discoveries. My fourth great-grandfather on my mum’s side, Joseph Pengilley, came to Australia on the ship Theresa as a convict in 1839 after being found guilty of sheep stealing. I’ve got family from Ireland and Scotland and Germany with wonderful names like Nicol MacNicol and Rosina Regina Christina Schuhmacher. I’m distantly related (husband of my second great-grand aunt) to a World War I pilot who was the first person to fly a passenger plane across Bass Strait from Tasmania to Victoria in the 1920s.

Most of my time, however, has been spent trying to find a father.

My great-grandfather Ernest Alfred James Webb (known as Alfred) was born in 1890 in a little country town in north-west Tasmania. His birth certificate lists his father as Alfred James and his mother as Mary Ann Webb. Surprisingly, in a time when everyone took on
the name of their father, Alfred was given his mother’s last name, not his father’s. To make things more confusing, there are no records of an Alfred James that link to my great grandfather. I can’t find Alfred’s father anywhere.

Whilst I don’t know the full circumstances of his birth, it appears that Alfred was raised by his maternal grandparents, James and Emma Webb. It’s very possible he didn’t even know his mother was actually Mary. When Alfred was 16, he was given the job of driving a bullock wagon of potatoes to Burnie to put on the ship to Melbourne. Alfred put himself on the ship that day too and left the empty bullock wagon standing on the wharf. He never returned.

Anecdotal information suggests that around that time, someone told Alfred “who he really was”. The information was so upsetting that he ran away. I have a hunch it was something to do with his father, the mysterious Alfred James. For young Alfred, the news was devastating. In an era where being born out of wedlock was your burden to carry, I can only imagine the shame that would cause a teenage boy to jump on a ship and leave everything he’d ever known.

You see, no matter who we are, deep down, we are all in need of a good father. The Bible talks a lot about God the Father. But what kind of Father is He? What characteristics does God the Father have? And what does that mean for those of us searching for a father today?


Creator and Sustainer
Genesis 1:1 tells us that, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God the Father is the Creator God. He’s the One who hung the stars, put the spikes on echidnas and gave giraffes ridiculously long necks. He’s also the One who created humankind in His own image (Genesis 1:27). All through Creation week, God the Father declares His creation to be “good”, but He declares the sixth day—after the creation of humans—to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Knowing that you are created by a loving God can give you a sense of value and worth, even if your biological father was not able to provide that for you. God made you, He sees you and He delights in you!

But God didn’t just create you and forget about you. Jesus talks about the love and care of Father God in Matthew 6:25–34. Speaking to a large crowd on the side of a mountain, Jesus reminds the people not to worry about their lives. Instead, He encourages them to “look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (verse 26). If God sustains the birds, then He will sustain you too because He loves you.

Knowing that God created you and He sustains you also means that you can walk through life without fear. God the Father promises to be with you. “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

His only Son
Sometimes it can be hard to picture who God the Father is. Jesus made it easy for us to really grasp the character of God the Father.

In John 14, in the lead up to His death and resurrection, Jesus tells His disciples that He is going to prepare a place for them with His Father and tells them they know the way to get there. The disciples are confused, and Thomas asks directions on how to get where Jesus is going. Jesus makes a beautiful statement: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The way to eternal life with the Father is not by following a set of rules or a particular road or path, but through a relationship with the person of Jesus. Jesus is the way to the Father.

And not only is Jesus the way to the Father, but He also shows us who the Father is. His very next statement to Thomas is, “If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:7). Jesus makes it crystal clear: if we get to know Jesus, we’ll also get to know the Father.

The Jesus I know is kind, loving, forgiving, caring and gentle. He is just and merciful. He fought against injustice, called out the best in people and lived a life of service. When people met Jesus, they were transformed by His love and mercy. That’s what God is like too. Our Father God, Creator of heaven and earth, Sustainer of life, the One who is with us in every circumstance is kind, loving, forgiving, caring, gentle and full of mercy.

Finding the father in my family tree is still proving to be difficult, but finding my Father God is thankfully much easier; I just look to the person of Jesus. I read the stories of Him healing the broken, sitting with the destitute and bringing hope to the hopeless. When I immerse myself in the story of Jesus, I discover the heart of Father God. I know God created me, He sustains me and He is with me always. That’s exactly the kind
of Father I was looking for. That’s exactly the kind of Father I need.

Karen Collum is an Australian children’s author, chaplain and theology student. She lives on the Gold Coast, Queensland.

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