I wish I were more the father and not so much a dad.
I need to get some work done on Father’s Day. Yesterday was my Sabbath. I need to fix some shingles on the roof after a spring stretch of rain and wind. I need to cut the grass. I will play basketball with my oldest and try to play another game with my youngest. I need to return some library books and run to the store.
I went to my wife’s favourite comic last night who was performing in town. I like him too. But yesterday was my day break (actually so was Friday, which happened to be my birthday). I feel a little guilty for working on Sunday.
I am such a dad, but not yet the father.
A dad sees the shingles, the leaky roof. A dad sees the dandelions and the spread of weeds. A dad sees the heavy-handedness with which his child takes on the world. A dad sees his child latch too tightly on one part of their identity, thereby underestimating the other parts. A dad sees imperfection and tries to fix it. Dads putter. The father lives in stillness with compassion.
I am not yet the father. Father, hear my prayer.
Let me hear to be absorbed by resonance. Father, let me taste to experience joy. Father, let me smell to be filled with Thy Spirit. Father, let me touch to be connected. Father, let me see with the eyes of the heart.
The father’s sight is an eternal seeing that reaches out to all humanity. It sees the lostness of the children of all times and places and knows the suffering of those that have chosen to leave home, that cried rivers of tears brought by anguish and agony. The eyes of the father burn with an immense desire to bring his children home. Oh how much the father wants to warn them of the many dangers they are facing and to convince them that at home can be found everything that they search for elsewhere. How much a dad wants to authoritatively pull them back and hold them close to himself so they would not get hurt.
The father’s love is too great to do any of that. It cannot force, constrain, push, or pull. The father’s love rejects that so-called “love”. The father’s love offers freedom to reject that authority or to force a return of love. The immensity of the love of the father is the source of divine suffering. As a dad, let me choose to be a father.
Let my children be free, free to love. Let them be free to leave home, to lose everything. Let them be free to be indecisive, to choose their own identity. Let me be powerless to prevent the pain that will come from these choices. As Henri Nouwen has so richly stated, a father “…desires that those who stay at home enjoy his presence and affection.” Yet, the father wants only to offer a love that can be freely received. The father suffers greatly when his children honor him only with lip service. But he cannot make them love him without losing fatherhood.
The only authority that the father claims for himself is that of compassion. Compassion lets the sins of his children pierce his heart. There is no lust or greed, no anger or resentment, no jealousy or vengeance in his lost children that do not grieve his heart. The grief is deep because the heart is so pure. The father reaches out to his children from the deep inner place where love embraces all human grief.
The father we can believe in is one who stretches his arms out in waiting, but not in force. The father never lets his arms drop down in despair, but awaits his children’s return so that he can speak words of love to them. His desire is only to bless.
The desiring heart of the father seeks to express good things to his children not only with his voice. He wants them to be touched and embraced, seen and heard, loved and accepted and has no desire to punish them. They are punished excessively already by their own inner and outer lostness. The father wants them to know that the love they have always searched for has always been there… for them.
“You are my Beloved; on you, my favour rests.”
A dad becomes father when he realizes that he is created in the image of God. And for me as a dad, I need to discover through long and painful struggles the true meaning of that image. It is the image of a weakened (but not weak), near-sighted man crying tenderly, blessing his deeply hurting children.
A dad becoming a father is being made ready to enter eternal life.