17 June 2010

The Importance of Being Well-loved

Father’s Day is around the corner. I don’t often write myself but make the exception this time because of the topic. As nature would have it, two things conspired to make me prize Mother’s Day above Father’s Day.
First, as often happens in the natural course of things, I bonded more closely to my mother than to my father. If you have children, you know how this works.
Secondly, I was born a little more than a decade after World War 2, in an era when fathers were authoritarians first. In my father’s case, he was also the eldest of many children. His eldest sister said he was born “old.” I think until his parents ironed out their marital life, he acted as the grown up. He knew how to set a good example and to work hard. In the family he was not remote, for he was in touch with what was going on in the house. However, as a child, he was scary to me. He’s now 81 (though some people tell me he’s still scary) and has mellowed greatly. 
Even though he may have seemed scary to me as a child, I knew I was secure and well-loved. Perfect parents do not exist but some parents are worse than others. I know many people who had bad fathers. A bad father belongs to one or more of these categories: the Unknown, the Unknowable, the Undeserving of respect or love, or the Uncaring (so remote he could have been living on another planet). In happy contrast to this are those people, normally younger than myself, who have bonded very closely to their fathers. And, sadly, many of them have lost the good father to death.
Which brings me to my question: would you rather be the person who was close to your father, but lost him before you were 35 or the one whose father belonged to the “unknown / unknowable / undeserving” category? I ask not to frustrate, but to consider what kind of Father you really perceive God to be.
One needn’t be particularly astute to know that people who have great difficulty with issues of faith are often people who have not been well-loved by their father—or mother. People who were well-loved understand how the freedom we have in Christ is not at odds with “following Christ,” but, in fact, they are parallel lines in the same direction.
More to the point: it is important that the professing Christian follow Christ because he’s compelled or drawn, and not out of duty, guilt or obligation (often called “eye-service”). Indeed, unless following Christ flows out of your free-will, I wonder if is really “following” Christ since the motive is twisted then its roots are not well-nourished.

Happy Father's Day, Dad!
Thanks for helping me believe in love!
A Charity Johnson

“He does not merely stand still, open His arms and say, 'Come hither'; no, he stands there and waits
as the father of the lost son waited, 
rather He does not stand and wait,
he goes forth to seek,
as the shepherd sought the lost sheep, as the woman sought the lost coin.
He goes--yet no,
he has gone,
but infinitely farther than any shepherd or any woman,
He went, in sooth, the infinitely long way from being God to becoming man,
and that way He went in search of sinners.”
  • Soren Kierkegaard, Training in Christianity