In honor of Father’s Day, here’s a special entry in my too-long-neglected “Questions and Answers” series, where we examine two songs that address the human condition from two perspectives—the one without, the other with hope. Today’s topic is fatherhood. To those whose earthly fathers have brought them only pain and fear, what do we as Christians have to offer? What can we say to the person who says “Everyone I ever trusted has let me down”? The answer is that we have a heavenly Father whose word is sure and whose faithfulness endures to all generations.
I recently discovered the song “No Son of Mine” when I came across a rare unplugged Phil Collins concert, which was a mix of solo material and material he’d written for the band Genesis. I’ve mentioned his music a couple of other times here, because I think he’s an excellent songwriter, and I love good songwriting wherever I encounter it. This particular song is one of his best Genesis-era pieces, and really one of his best overall. Though not autobiographical, it compellingly enters the mind of a man who tries to re-connect with his abusive father after years of separation, only to discover that nothing has changed:
They say that time is a healer
And now my wounds are not the same
I rang that bell with my heart in my mouth
I had to hear what he’d say
He sat me down to talk to me
He looked me straight in the eyes
And he said, “You’re no son,
You’re no son of mine…”
These cruel words are seared into his memory, as the chorus intersperses them with his cry for a father: “But where should I go, and what should I do? (You’re no son, you’re no son of mine.) But I came here for help. Oh, I was looking for you…”
I like the full-band original version, because it has a raw rock edge to it that suits the dark lyrics. But I think I prefer this stripped-down, acoustic interpretation by Phil’s solo band, which is very clean and crisp and allows his vocal to breathe freely:
The father in this song is a possessive dictator, treating his family however he pleases, then expressing rage that his child would dare to walk away from him. There is no love, only hatred and rejection.
God, by contrast, offers a self-sacrificing, unconditional love to His children. Unlike Allah, the God of Islam, He does not demand that we come to him as slaves. Rather, He invites us to approach the throne as His beloved image-bearers, sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. If we seek Him out, He will not despise us nor cast us away. He will cancel our debt and clothe us in righteousness divine.
Keith Green’s song “When I Hear the Praises Start” is God’s promise to the Church. It offers a picture of the love that all have been invited to partake of through His grace. He alone is the father to the fatherless.
For when I hear the praises start
I want to rain upon you
Blessings that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are my child, and you know me
To me, you’re only holy
Nothing that you’ve done will remain
Only what you do for me