Shortly after Christmas one year, my daughter brought me her decapitated Barbie and begged me to fix it. At first, I did what novices do. I tried to fix it. Malibu Barbie became Walking Dead Barbie for a few days, until inevitably her head fell off again. And again. And again. Finally, I did what seasoned fathers do. I threw Barbie in the trash when my daughter wasn’t looking. In case you didn’t know, Barbie doll heads (and limbs) are impossible to reattach. Surely Mattel has the technology to create a toy with attachable parts. So why would a billion dollar company make a cheap toy? Because dads like me will buy another one. And another one. And another one.
The first time I noticed the disposable nature of our culture, I was in college working for Sears. Customers came to me to replace their twenty-five-year-old refrigerators. These fridges were older than I was. As a salesman on commission, once they selected a new fridge, I always pushed the extended warranty. The extended warranty lasted three to five years. Many a shocked customer would ask, “You mean, this fridge won’t last another twenty-five years?” to which I honestly replied, “Absolutely not.”
Once upon a time, refrigerators were made entirely of metal with genuine copper coils. Remember the scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull when Harrison Ford hides in an old fridge to survive an atomic bomb? Refrigerators used to be virtually indestructible. When I worked at Sears, our most expensive fridge—the Kenmore Elite, which cost $3500—contained barely any metal at all. It had a “satin steel finish,” which was actually faux steel, also known as plastic.
Companies are smart. The more disposable the product, the more lucrative the profit. The problem with living in a disposable culture is that it affects us relationally as much as materially. In 2016 a study from the University of Kansas found that when people relocate, they’re just as likely to discard relationships as they are objects.
Think about the word “ghosting.” Three years ago it wasn’t even a word. Today, we all know what it means. Worse yet, we know how it feels. Chances are, every one of us has been on the receiving end of a discarded relationship. Maybe you were suddenly and unexplainably “dropped” by a friend. Ghosted. Maybe it was a spouse. Or a parent. The more intimate the relationship, the more exceptional the pain. We’re left to wonder, how could she walk away from twenty years of intimacy? How could he throw me out like an old Barbie doll? It’s natural to project our pain on God. If earthly fathers abandon us, how do we trust a heavenly Father? If decades of marriage are disposable, who’s to say He will be faithful?
Notice, of all the pairings in Isaiah 9:6, when Isaiah describes God as Father, he uses the word “everlasting.” Think about that. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Isaiah could have penned any adjective to describe God the Father—good, kind, wise, holy. But he chooses to call Him, “Everlasting Father.”
In ancient times, the father of a nation was similar to the father of a family. As leader of the Israelites, Abraham was responsible for two things primarily: protection and provision. This responsibility was handed down as new leaders replaced old ones. From Abraham to Isaac to Jacob. From Joseph to Moses to Joshua…on and on. These men bore the responsibility of “fathering” Israel. When they wandered in the wilderness, it was Moses’s job to provide food and water. When their enemies rose up, it was Joshua’s job to protect them.
Unless you live in Chuluota, you probably don’t need protection from bears and wilderness peril. But you and I need protection from hopelessness. From despair. From anxiety bigger than we can shoulder. These attackers are relentless. They spring upon us without warning, seizing our hearts for hours, days, decades. The truth of Isaiah 9:6 is that in the face of these enemies, God declares, “I am the Everlasting Father who will protect you forever. I will outlast anxiety. I will outlast danger, death, and depression. I will fight for you again…and again…and again, until the day I have you in My arms.”
As Everlasting Father, God not only protects, He provides. When Jesus was teaching the disciples how to pray, He taught them to ask God for their daily bread (Matthew 6:9-13). It was a discipline of dependance. Are you relying on God for your daily, physical needs? As Americans living in the top 1% of the world’s economy, some of us don’t have a lot of physical needs. If that’s you, think about your emotional needs. Are you trusting your Everlasting Father to provide for you emotionally? To be the strength you need when you don’t know which way is up?
To expect the unexpected is to take a chance on everlasting love in a world where marriage is as “upgradable” as an iPhone. To expect the unexpected is to believe in an Everlasting Father while living in an expendable society. This year when the Christmas tree comes down, and the toys break, think about the everlasting nature of God. The mercies that are new every morning. The love that endures forever. The faithfulness that runs through a thousand generations of those who honor Him. And as you try to reattach the Barbie doll head, or you finally admit your girlfriend has ghosted you, or you feel a pang of inexplicable sorrow, imagine Jesus stooping down to whisper, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).