June 17, 2012 – Father’s Day – already past on this side of the world
Major triggers today – as I feared. So was it the fear that brought it on or was it something else? Started out by telling myself – it is just another day – like any other. Told myself – it has nothing to do with the 2 so-called “fathers” in your life. Neither one of them really was a father anyway.
The first was just my biological father – but he died just before I turned 3. From what I’ve heard, he was a great guy – but I never got to find out for myself. As a kid, when I thought about him, I just had an impression of absence. A hole, a void, a missing person, a loss… He was in heaven and I was on earth and there was no possible contact or communication or interaction between the two of us. He was distant, silent, untouchable, uninvolved.
The second was a step-father - my mother’s husband, who married her when I was 5 ˝. He fit all the stereotypes. Critical, cruel, angry, violent, abusive… He was a good provider – we had a materially comfortable life, but that was the best that could be said of him. So – not really a father either.
I tried to convince myself that I was the only father in the picture of my life. I have 3 kids and they are doing well and that is all that matters. But the years of conditioning was too much to overcome. We went to church and of course there was a message that focused on fathers – and then we went out for dinner and the restaurant was crowded with other families observing the day. I got really shaky and was practically losing it by the time we got out – couldn’t take the noise and confusion and frenzy and crowds. It was such a relief to get home and go into a quiet, nearly solitary environment and just try to pull myself back together. My wife was encouraging, supportive and understanding, for which I am thankful.
But something good did come out of this day. I realized that I have been thinking about everything backwards all my life. The fatherhood of God has always been a big obstacle for me. I know what it is supposed to mean – but I just couldn’t feel it or relate to it. No big surprise about that. Looking at the list of descriptive words that I used to define my feeling about my 2 so-called “fathers” – I came to the recognition that those adjectives were just the same as the ones I’d have used to describe God. I had been judging God by the way I felt about my biological father and my step-father. I guess it is no wonder – but it is so wrong. Actually, I should have been judging my 2 “fathers” by the attributes of God – not the other way around. Obviously, both failed – the step-father because he was nothing like God – except that he fed and clothed and housed me. And the biological father through no fault of his own.
It is an ongoing struggle for me to reconcile those attributes of God – His love, His power, His benevolence, His justice, His wisdom, His sovereignty – with some of the experiences I have had. I can definitely point to some events or circumstances and say – see, that is evidence of God’s intervention or a good gift from God or an answer to prayer. But others…? I believe in God’s perfection in the abstract, but I have some problems connecting those attributes to my specific situations and memories. I’m trying to let go of the tendency to want to judge God’s performance of His job. Been working at that for a while now. This new light will probably help.
At least I have finally got the comparison switched around the way it should be – the only way it makes sense – the way I should have understood way back when. How stupid is that – to define and equate God the Father with fallible human fathers? It reminds me of an Asian proverb that says that a pebble is tiny compared to a mountain, but if you hold the pebble too close to your eye, it will block out the mountain. All I could see before were the fallible dim shadows. Now maybe those will be burned away by this light.
Happy Father’s Day, Lord!
"That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. . . What will your verse be?" Robin Williams as John Keating in "Dead Poets Society"