It’s Father’s Day weekend, so I thought I would share something I wrote about my Dad and maybe it will resonate with you in some ways too.
Some people have a hard time with the image of God as Father. They tell me it depends on what your image of your own father is…maybe the type of family life you had, whether your father was around in the growing up years, or if there was some sort of problem.
I guess I am one of the blessed ones, though. I have never had a hard time with God as father because of my own Dad. From my earliest recollections, (I was about three years old), images of being swooped up in Daddy’s arms are vivid. I can remember Mom cleaning me up after a nap, dressing me up, and the two of us sitting on the porch steps watching the corner of our block. The bus that Dad took home from work let him off at a stop just around the corner. When he rounded the corner and got a little closer to our house, Mom let me run to him. I can remember running with wild abandon into his arms, being twirled around, tickled, and told, “I love you, kiddo.” Those were words I heard often from him growing up. Without knowing it, they shaped a perception that would help me in my later years.
So, thinking about God as a father, loving us unconditionally, isn’t a great stretch for me. Dad wasn’t a man of many words most of the time. He was kind of a quiet, gentle presence. He was there for support, love, forgiveness, advice on schoolwork, fixing my bike, and later, on dating and life in general. Ours was a pretty normal family. My Dad was a man who helped others and taught us to do the same. It took a lot to make him angry, although my brother was rather gifted in this area! I saw him get angry on a few occasions, but also I saw him practice forgiveness more. He gave us the freedom to make our own mistakes; he often waited patiently for us to learn the lesson; and then he’d find a way to let us know he was proud of us.
Dad died suddenly and none of us were with him. It was so like him, though, to just simply leave this work quietly. His life was one of goodness, generosity, integrity, care, forgiveness, joy, and love. For my siblings and me, the good talks we had with my Dad are part of the happy times we share and the memories we hold close.
“I love you kiddo” might not be uttered aloud anymore, but it still gets said and heard through that thin veil between us and the communion of saints.
Because of my Dad, as the years of my life pass, I continue to discover just how much a Provident God loves me, is patient with me, forgives me, and is always there waiting with compassion for me to come home. I can’t help but think that my earthly father’s life and love set the stage for this ongoing discovery. Each day we make a choice for God anew. Each day we experience the indiscriminate love of God for us, and each day we begin again to go deeper into that spiral of discovery. It’s always such a sacred, “aha” moment.
Certainly my Dad taught me to deepen my trust in a Compassionate God who longs for us to place our hearts in his–an extravagant and Providential Father. Happy Father’s Day to all our Dads, living and deceased.
I invite you to reflect on your own father–his love of you and the things he has taught you. For what are you most grateful? What memories do you hold sacred?
Barbara McMullen, CDP
(photo of me and Dad from 2009)