I’d like to start out by acknowledging the fact that we all have Fathers!
Fathers, in a very real way, are the greatest teachers that we have in our young lives.
Fathers can provide for their children opportunities for tremendous insights about life itself often times through the clash of personalities and through the clash of perceptions.
Mark Twain illustrated this beautifully in this now famous quote:
“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
When I first heard this quote it really made me chuckle, for I knew exactly what Twain was talking about.
I was the first – the oldest – of eight children. The eldest child in a large family can often have a lot of responsibility put upon them, although in my case, I would say the bulk of the work was put upon my sister, who was a year younger. Still, I could change a diaper when call upon to do so.
At age fourteen to fifteen things began to shift for me. I began to see the inconsistencies in the way I was being taught and the way it appeared the outside world worked. What did my dad know about anything? He wasn’t born here. He doesn’t understand that High School is the most important thing in life! What does he know about stuff outside of the Air Force?
But, when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much “the old man had learned in seven years.”
As many of you know, my own father was here visiting a while ago, and we spoke of life before I left home. It was interesting to hear about his concerns after having forty years to ponder them.
It is a bit unsettling to hear your father ask, “What went wrong?” when you’re two years from 60 – when he said to me that he always thought that he had pushed me out of the house.
I got to tell him I wasn’t pushed! I couldn’t get out of there fast enough! I was in a big hurry when I was young! I left home three days after graduation for Seattle. I wanted to get out there and make my way in the world. Forget college! I want to make money! Now!
And then, I found out the world is a lot bigger than I thought. Of course, my father the Irish immigrant knew this. At fourteen, he sailed from Ireland to New York. From the bog to the City.
The truth is my father had to endure this cock-sure know-it-all son in the middle of his household, even as he was reminding me that there six more behind me.
I really don’t think my story is much different than other teens with their fathers. The truth is, as we were to later learn, our problems were really tame by comparison.
In time I became a father myself and a lot of the things my father was attempting to instill in me became apparent. You start to parent by inspiration, only to at time feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, and then you parent by fear! “Don’t go into that house, look both ways, don’t talk to strangers, keep your hand to your self” (well – then “hit ‘em back son – man up!”).
And then came the game changer- divorce! And the whole operation of fatherhood can be turned on its ear if you don’t keep one core principle at the forefront of all things: that we can love our children in spite of anything they do. We can hate the behavior, but we have to love the kid through it. Maybe Charlie Manson would have been Chuck Manson who retired from Rockedyne had he been loved up by both of his parents – especially his father.
And we can teach our kids through our presence or our absence. My dad was gone a lot when I was kid, but I always knew who he was, that he was coming home, and that he loved me. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized what a great provider for me and my family that the ole Sarge was.
And he instilled within me not only a great faith in God, but a patriarchal idea of what God is. Masculine, demanding, disciplined, respectful of rules and traditions and authority from peace officers to priests. To live honorably, to live by the commandments. That God will provide if I follow the rules. God’s love is earned. Rule following is rewarded in heaven so be good and kind. Although you are a pitiful sinner, be like Jesus. And of course Jesus was the Superman of humans.
What an order! I couldn’t go through with it! So, in my own travels I found a different experience of God. In the Sierras, in the horizon of the desert and of the sea; in friendship, and when I let my guard down, in love itself. I began to sense that there was another way to live honorably in the world that did not have to feel like a hair shirt.
I came to see that if I courted the Presence and started from there, “that all would be added unto me”.
I learned that rules and regulations can be our training wheels, for we become willing to set aside childish things and think deeper on what it is to be a Spiritual Being. We learn to practice living from the center of authenticity rather than fear; To live from Affirmation rather than appeasement. And in the process we find ourselves.
From this place, from this perspective we begin to understand that all of life’s experiences have been designed to bring us to a clear understanding of how life works.
All we have is today.
Every challenge has a blessing in it.
We are co-creating our experience.
Our life happens through us – not to us.
Everything we believe to be true is a reflection of our own consciousness.
Love is the healing agency that heals all.
When we embody these ideas we live prosperously at every level of life.
Our hearts soften even as our resolve to live life strengthens. Ultimately this is the great lesson from my father. In the end the only thing that matters is how well you have loved. His heart softened with age – he seasoned – as I am myself seasoning.
Happy Father’s Day! Please join the Center for Spiritual Living at one of our Sunday services or for our Wednesday night service. We also have classes and other programs for people who want to explore a new way of life. All are welcome – we are a “multi-denominational” spiritual center open to all.
Photo from Flickr by Yvette T. Some Rights Reserved.