I was a child in the 1950s, that era of Eisenhower and Elvis Presley and new technologies like home televisions and air conditioning. My parents were the Great Depression/World War II generation, and they were shaped by both those experiences. One of the things that life in a middle class home in a middle class suburb meant was that you never argued in front of the kids.
The one time I can remember my parents arguing had to do with me. I was eight. My father was to take me for a Saturday outing to the French Quarter, just the two of us.
A few years before, he had started his own printing business, and he worked every day, often for 12 hours or more. It was not unusual for me not to see him for weeks at a time. He would often be gone by the time I woke up in the morning and not return until after I was in bed at night.
The night before our French Quarter visit, he told me mother and me that he had to work that Saturday and he couldn’t take me as planned.
I don’t remember how I responded. Disappointment, likely. I don’t think I threw a tantrum, because I wasn’t a tantrum type of kid.
My mother got angry. She blew up. He blew up. They sent me to my room to get me out of the way (but not out of earshot). Later, my mother told me that the trip to the French Quarter was on, and my father and I would be going.
I remember the day as gray and overcast, leaning to the cool side. I know it was February 1960 because a Jackson Square artist did a pastel drawing of me, and signed and dated it. I still have the drawing, pastel on black paper. It’s a side view of my head and shoulders; he drew me wearing a white t-shirt. We ate coffee and doughnuts at Café DuMonde; and we visited the Cabildo and St. Louis Cathedral. I don’t recall much else, but it was enough. It’s the one time I can remember as a child spending an extended period of time with my father.
That argument, and that event, came to mind as I read the chapter entitled “Our Father” in Brennan Manning’s The Furious Longing of God. “Only Jesus revealed to an astonished Jewish community that God is truly Father,” Manning writes. “If you took the love of all the best mothers and fathers who have lived in the course of human history, all their goodness, kindness, patience, fidelity, wisdom, tenderness, strength, and love and united all those qualities in a single person, that person’s love would only be a faint shadow of the furious love and mercy in the heart of God the Father addressed to you and me at this moment.”
Many say that it is our fathers who shape our understanding of God. For me, for a long time, God was someone who was there but not actually involved in my life. And I didn’t live my life like he was actually and intimately involved.
It was a shock to learn that God not only loved me but that He was actively involved in loving me, that He considered me his much-loved child and that He was all over me.
It was frightening when I understood that. It still is occasionally. But over time the fear diminished and the confidence grew. No matter what happened or what I did, He was going to be there.
My father loved me. Like so many of his generation, he had a hard time showing that to his children. And while it hurt for a time not to be sure, it prepared me for love of God that was waiting for me.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re reading The Furious Longing of God. To see more posts on this chapter, please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines.