"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God."
-- I John 3:1
I walk quickly past the card counter, ignore the "Super Dad" balloon display in the aisle, and toss all my "Father's Day Sale" brochures in the trash. I feel a twinge, knowing I ignored the man who raised me more often during the 42 years we shared than I do the Father's Day accouterments I no longer need.
Regrets, I've had a few.
Sometimes, especially in our youth, we don't like our fathers. We wish they made more money, had better jobs, allowed us more freedom or fit more closely that image we created for them but which only God, our heavenly father, can fill.
A friend describes her father as "mean, real mean." So how are they going to celebrate Father's Day?
"Oh, just pretend as usual," she replies. Family members aren't always pleased with the relative hand they're dealt.
In the parable Jesus told about the prodigal son (Luke 15), a young man had mixed feelings about his father, too. He liked what his father had, but he didn't like living with him. So in a bold move on his part, he asked for his inheritance right then, rather than wait until his father died. Though the older man must have been terribly grieved, he granted his son's request. Predictably, the son took the money, took off for the city and "wasted his substance in riotous living."
I've often questioned the wisdom of that father, wondering why he gave what he had worked so hard to amass to someone who deserved it so little. What a waste.
But I've come to believe that this father was a very wise man. He knew his son was trying to bypass the normal steps to maturity and success, but he understood that life's most valuable teaching tool is the arena of personal experience, especially when that experience includes a host of mistakes. The father also knew he would welcome his son back with open arms.
Jesus didn't tell that parable to illustrate how earthly fathers should treat their wayward children. Rather, this story reveals how God, the perfect Father, treats us when we are more interested in the gift than we are in the giver and we squander our inheritance.
The word "father" has many meanings, including the root word, "to feed." A father can also be a guard-ian, protector, teacher, someone who begets a child or who has authority, all images we can assign either to our earthly fathers or to God.
How fortunate we are when those images coincide. More often, however, we place our earthly fathers on a pedestal they may not be able to climb.
I've covered a lot of ground here between the card counter and the "Father's Day" ideal, and I've uncovered some new feelings about my own father. Maturity does that, as does not having him with me anymore, and missing some of that protection and advice I wasn't as eager to receive when he was here to give it.
But though I didn't buy him a card again this year, I suspect my father is having a wonderful Father's Day anyway, sitting there among the angels, grinning from ear to ear, because I've finally learned some of the lessons that only time and an accumulation of mistakes in my experience arena can teach.
I only wish I had learned one of those lessons sooner, the one about not assigning the majestic, superhuman traits of my heavenly father to the one who, in only limited ways, represented him here on earth.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to seabara at aol. com.)
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