“Planting Seeds, Growing People”
Growing up, my dad was an important person in my life. I was young so dad, to me, was as close as I could get to an image of what God looked and acted like. He was stern but never mean; set rules I had to follow but was always the one who liked to have some fun too. He was thoughtful and from him, I learned to be equally reflective. And, he was fair always giving us the benefit of the doubt.
He was fair with other people too. I credit my dad with my desire to seek out justice for all people. He had that kind of attitude and lived believing others had a right to the same privileges he had in his life. He was liberal in his politics and generous with his praise and yet, my dad never let my brother or me off the hook. We were expected to do our best in and out of school. It is how I see God – ever challenging us to strive for our better selves, learning and growing.
When I was in sixth grade, my dad volunteered to chaperone an evening at my school. My sixth grade teacher planned an outside star gazing field trip in the schoolyard. It was mid-winter but I don’t remember any snow on the ground. What I do remember is my dad and I, along with the other 25 students, parent chaperones and Mrs. Hillard, our teacher all pointing our faces skyward, taking the knowledge we had learned from our schoolbooks and using it to identify the real thing outside in the cold. So we saw the stars and the constellations and were exhilarated by the knowledge that our world was truly bigger than we could have imagined.
I thought my dad was great that night. I was proud of him. It was cold but he was right there with me and I felt warmed by his presence and very grateful. That is how I think about God too- someone who is always right there with us, who warms us with divine grace and love. Someone who stands with us in the creative energy of life embracing the goodness of what is and what might be. That was my dad to me.
Dads and those we adopt, as our dads are important to us. For kids growing up, this male presence is vital. Like our moms and the other female presence in our lives, these male parents, grandparents, uncles, and friends can help plant the seeds of faith that will eventually grow into trees of knowledge and truth. Like the mustard seed, the influence of our dads can have immense implications for our growing quest for knowledge and help to define or describe the goodness of God who nurtures us into our better selves.
But our kids have an influence on us too. We become better at parenting, at grand parenting, and at befriending others as we help our children grow into productive, healthy, and creative individuals. As we invite them to use the gifts they’ve been given, we grow to learn about our own gifts. As we help our children become more effective and affective in their lives, we learn how we might be both in our lives. Our children become our teachers so the relationship is truly reciprocal. The hidden, yet influential hand of God guides how we relate. Our children learn from us; we learn from them and in it all, God’s handprint on our souls and hearts becomes more discernible, more visible. Those handprints should be treasured for they define a relationship built on love and created in love. God, as our heavenly parent imprinted us with an image of our connection to the divine, inner workings of mind, body, and spirit. What a rich gift!
As I grew older, I came to realize that my dad wasn’t God. He made mistakes, hurt others and him self. He was human and as subject to his human frailties as any one else. But, even as he fell from grace and from my childish idolatry, I learned something valuable, again about myself, my relationship to God. I saw in my father a man who needed something beyond himself, someone greater than his own image to really find out who he was and what he could be. I knew that was available to me too. I saw in my dad a man of faith, who could walk a beach and hold a perfectly sane conversation with Jesus…he shared that with me. I knew as ill as my dad was then, he would be okay and so would I. And, on more than one occasion, toward the end of his life, my dad apologized for the things he hadn’t done very well, giving me a valuable lesson in forgiveness.
These are the gifts we can learn from our parents. I’m thoroughly convinced that our relationship with our children, with all children can be lessons of faith, for them and for us, which open windows of light and knowledge giving us all a new, fresh, alive, and inspiring glimpse of the glory of God. We see in one another not only the potential of our love but the reality of God’s love for all God’s children. So, continue to plant those tiny seeds of faith in the soil of hope and be amazed at the fruit of God’s potential in the little ones entrusted to you. Happy Father’s Day! Amen