God, Our Ever-Present Father
When her boys needed a father because theirs was gone for work, Amy Sparkman explains how they came to recognize father figures all around them. They learned that God is their ever-present Father.
At one point during my sons' growing up years, their dad took a job that required him to commute two hours each way. Five nights a week for nearly two years, Dad left at 5 AM and returned close to 8 PM. He would arrive home in the middle of our bedtime routine, usually when I was reading aloud to the boys. As eager as he was to spend time with us, he was so tired that within ten minutes of listening to the story, he'd be snoring soundly on one of the boys' beds – out for the night. After years of having Dad work from home, this change in his presence in the boys' daily lives was very dismaying at the outset. But that feeling didn't last long – and it changed for an unexpected, wonderful, and lasting reason.
About two weeks into the new family routine, I knew something had to change because the boys were acting out their frustration and disappointment through unusual bickering, lack of focus, and general irritation. At the same time, I was realizing that I couldn't be both Mom and Dad – Dad was Dad, and he was decidedly MIA.
Praying for an answer, it came to me that God's nature is always being expressed and that "Our Father" is never out of touch or absent from our daily lives. I thought of several lines from the Lord's Prayer: "Our Father…. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread…" (Matt 6:9-11 KJV). The first verse of my favorite Psalm filled my heart with peace: "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want" (23). Then Jesus' words came to me: "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30 KJV). I imagine Jesus making this simple statement with total, unwavering conviction.
As I let these ideas expand in my consciousness, I began to see examples of fathering everywhere. For a couple of days, it seemed like everyone else had a father figure…except my children. That couldn't be true. I continued to pray not just to see, but more importantly, to feel the presence of the Father, right here, right now.
The next day I sat the boys down, side by side, on the family room couch. I can still see them there, looking up at me with big, sad eyes. I launched into an explanation of this very cool idea of God fathering all of us in all different ways. They sat there, looking more and more uncomfortable. My eldest son interrupted: Did this mean Dad was never coming home? My middle son piped in: Did Dad not love them anymore? Did he not want to spend time with them anymore? Lower lip quivering, my youngest son said, "Mommy, my eyes are going to rain."
Instantly, I headed my mini-lecture in a new direction: Look at all the men in your lives who love you. There's Brian who takes you crabbing, and Pete who loves your help in his garden, and your grandfather, Deedi. Dad hasn't forgotten you – he loves you all the time, no matter where he is. And that's what we can do, too. We love Dad just as much when he's at work as we do when he's home. And when he's gone, you get to enjoy time with Deedi, Brian and Pete. Loving them doesn't mean you don't love Dad enough. There's plenty of love to go around, just like there are lots of examples of fathering everywhere we look. You have so many people who love being with you, showing you how things work, and doing fun stuff. When Dad is gone from home, all the things you love about him are still right here – they're always with you. God is always taking care of us, fathering us in very special ways and through very special people. And Dad comes home to tuck you into bed and to do fun things on the weekends.
A new view of fathering began to grow in all of us during the years that Dad commuted so far, and the results were often astonishing. Neighbor Brian taught the boys to fish (after a few months of successful crabbing!), took them out to breakfast regularly, and initiated some of the best watergun fights of all time. Other neighbor Pete added more gardening and then woodworking projects to his time with the boys. Grandfather Deedi introduced them to train rides, hot pretzels and museums in NYC.
The boys' lives have always been full of fathering qualities and father figures other than their dad. As their interests have emerged and changed through the years, different men have come into their lives in remarkable ways at precisely the right time – fathering them, mentoring them, befriending them, supporting them. All of us have come to know, turn to, and depend on God as our ever-present Father.