Published 3:41 pm Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

I write this on the day after Father’s Day. I was fortunate to spend most of the day with my son yesterday. It was a particularly poignant observance knowing that in August he will be matriculating at a college here in the commonwealth thus beginning a whole new stage of his life; and a whole new one for mine as well. Additionally, I happen to serve in a Christian denomination that still addresses the priests as “Father” giving a different dimension to Father’s Day. It is not lost on me that serving my parishioners is very much akin to caring for my son. All these thoughts brought to mind one of the most thought provoking and moving meditations on fatherhood. It was written by Fredrick Buechner (pronounced Beekner). Enjoy!

“When a child is born, a father is born. A mother is born too, of course, but at least for her it’s a gradual process. Body and soul, she has nine months to get used to what’s happening. She becomes what’s happening. But for even the best-prepared father, it happens all at once. On the other side of the plate-glass window, a nurse is holding up something roughly the size of a loaf of bread for him to see for the first time. Even if he should decide to abandon it forever 10 minutes later, the memory will nag him to the grave. He has seen the creation of the world. It has his mark on it. He has its mark upon him. Both marks are, for better or worse, indelible. 

“All sons, like all daughters, are prodigals if they are smart. Assuming the Old Man doesn’t run out on them first, they will run out on him if they are to survive, and if he’s smart he won’t put up too much of a fuss. A wise father, sees all this coming, and maybe that’s why he keeps his distance from the start. He must survive too. Whether they ever find their way home again, none can say for sure, but it’s the risk he must take if they’re to find their way at all. In the meantime, the world tends to have a soft spot in its heart for lost children. Lost fathers have to fend for themselves.

“Even as the father lays down the law, he knows that someday his children will break it as they need to break it if ever they’re to find something better than the law to replace it. Until and unless that happens, there’s no telling the scrapes they will get into trying to lose him and find themselves. Terrible blunders will be made — disappointments and failures, hurts and losses of every kind. And they’ll keep making them even after they’ve found themselves too, of course, because growing up is a process that goes on and on. And every hard knock they ever get knocks the father even harder still if that’s possible, and if and when they finally come through more or less in one piece at the end, there’s maybe no rejoicing greater than his in all creation.

It has become so commonplace to speak of God as ‘our Father’ that we forget what an extraordinary metaphor it once was.” 

From Fredrick Buechner’s Whistling in the Dark: A Doubter’s Dictionary. Pages 51-52 ©1993

REV. SCOTT BAKER is the rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 757-562-4542.