Saturday, June 9, 2012
My Father and I, California Beach
This coming Father’s Day is a great way to pause and celebrate fathers past and present. Thankfully, I had a great father growing up who died all too young. But I’m grateful for the time we did have together and the time we had fishing and playing baseball. My father worked as a railroad engineer, so his schedule was perpetually changing. Many days he was either forced to be working or sleeping to manage the responsibility of supporting our young family. We had only begun to know one another as adults when cancer took his life. But I do recall one early childhood incident when he was throwing me batting practice in our back yard. Our Victorian neighborhood had no concrete driveways or trash containers obscuring the front yards thanks to the alleys that separated everyone’s back yards. So we were both caught by surprise when I finally caught one of his faster pitches in the sweet spot and sailed the hard ball out of our yard, over the alley, and into our neighbor’s back window! I believe my first instinct was to vamoose, but my dad put his arm around my slight shoulder and walked me across the back yard to apologize to our neighbor. At the time, I don’t recall being too excited about that, but I do remember being quite relieved when he forgave my transgression. We then proceeded to replace the window pane—well, mostly my dad replaced it. It was kind of a George Washington apple tree moment, with my dad’s prodding. And another life lesson learned.
Saint Augustine observed that “When people choose to withdraw far from a fire, the fire continues to give warmth, but they grow cold. When people choose to withdraw from light, the light continues to be bright in itself but they are in darkness. This is also the case when people withdraw from God.” Jesus relates that God is our Abba or eternal Father and we are his beloved children. Unfortunately, confusing our Heavenly Father with imperfect mortal fathers has caused many folks to withdraw from Him. I believe that we were created in His image and that we share many emotions. I simply cannot look around me, sense the life forces around me, or study current scientific research such as DNA coding, the Big Bang Theory, etc., and believe otherwise. And I think there will always be room for free will doubt and therefore faith.
When Jesus taught us to pray The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, he started with the words, “Our Father, who art in Heaven…”, and he addressed God as Father a total of 170 times in the Bible. Jesus created a new way of praying that is as natural as a child talking to his father. By creating us in his own image, God truly wanted someone to love and someone with a free will that was capable of returning that love. Most of us have learned that behavior from our own mortal fathers or attempted to model it for ourselves.