Sunday, December 1, 2013
In my imagination, I have replayed it a thousand times. I have played the part of the father looking at dusk for a lone soul to come straggling over the far hill. And a thousand times my prayers have lit the candle and placed it in the window: always in hope. Of late the bitterness has been strong in my thoughts. Perhaps it is the holidays and the blaring absences of presences that once called me by my rightful title of father. I have often wondered how the ones who no longer allow me that think on times like these. I have no doubt there is a spot a vacuum and a darkness of soul that chills to the bone and the ever present doubt that what action was taken is somehow like an unbalanced equation where one always tries to find the solution yet their result is always the same. At least I believe that is the case. Yet on the other hand, the action my wife and I have witnessed from their hands has not really allowed that reverie, what is there has been cold and cruel and it is those actions that make me think whatever we had in common even blood is not enough to sway them. It was what the Psalmist penned regarding the hearts of the cruel: ‘they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear.’
I have been in that position and I have been that way. I did not heed the warning of perhaps the greatest spiritual law: ‘for whatsoever a man soweth, that he shall also reap…’ and there is no getting around it. I can just hear the chuckle from those who look at the barrenness of my soul and say ‘Well then, take a look at your decisions and see where it has led you…’ Yet there is a story they do not know and one where I hold and come under this great and lasting principle. So let me tell you the story:
My father-in-law was a man of faith and his relationship with God was one of the healthiest I have seen this side of the grave marker. At one time I did not think so and only saw a man of prideful stubbornness that would not allow himself to change certain views that lined up with what I saw as the real truth. But he saw better than me, perhaps discerned better than me regarding certain things, people and places I had taken as the ‘upward way’ . I did not listen although many times he tried and I could hear the frustration in his voice and even the exasperation that could easily pass for anger yet my ears were like the adder’s and my way was set and would not alter. This estranged relationship went on to the point of his death and along the way I wish that I could say there was a reconciliation but honestly, there was no such thing. Oh we met and had many dinners and times together from the point where we walked separately until his death but it was never the same and that was a weight I now know he bore and the pain of that carrying never was assuaged. My wall never came down. You see, it was the way I believed one should walk versus how he believed. In my mind and in my reading of the scriptures with the slanted view I had at the time, he was not even a believer. I had such a narrow view of what it was to be a Christian that almost no one measured up to that ideal…we were the remnant and he was not part of it. In my spiritual world at that time in my life, there was no mercy, especially for those who rejected the teachings under which I was following. So the rift was made and the breach never repaired. He grew ill as time passed and the guards he once had were slowly washed away by the malady he suffered. In the end he could no longer put up any fronts. I can recall that he had an episode where mentally he became unwound due to his illness and some would say it was the illness but in that moment, it was not the illness that made him do what he did…it was the pain, the pain of unrequited love. Of a hand that had been extended for years that was never clasped and an embrace that never came. As he sat across from me in an emergency room in early morning hooked up to the equipment, the scowl that came across his face and the epitome of anger embodied in an expression of all the years of that pain came rising from the depths of his soul. There was a lewd gesture he made that fully expressed all his face was saying. Quite a different thing from a godly man but now as I look back on it, I understand it. It was not really me it was directed to but what I had done, what I had stolen from him. What was it I had stolen? Time… the one precious element that cannot be replaced with anything. I had stolen time from him and had withheld from him acceptance from myself and so my family. This is the blackest of crimes one can do to another and I am guilty and remain so.
What is the moral of the story? I now reap what I sowed. That which I took from others has been taken from me…there is no getting around it. What awaits my kin is not what I would wish on anyone yet the ‘Deus ex machina’ is already set in motion and will produce what it is given as fuel.
I have so many times prayed for them to come to their senses yet I know full well that there may be nothing that can be done unless God intervenes and I pray that he does. Yet Jesus speaks from the gospels regarding the hearts of men and it is a warning. In the story of Lazarus and the rich man after both of their deaths and now in the place called Sheol, the rich man implores Abraham to send Lazarus back to speak to his kin in what awaits them if they do not change. Abraham replies back: ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead…’
Oh, I know the parrot response they will mutter to themselves. I know it well because I used to say the same thing but that is an illusion and not the real nature of a real life. I think to myself now, what presumption to say such a thing knowing there is the underlying inertia of a life running headlong into a cold reality that awaits. I seek to spare them but given what I have witnessed so far, there is only the working out and production of what they have chosen.
If my father –in-law could express it now, I am sure he would utter the same words. They are now the words on my own tongue. When I get there, my first words to him will be ‘You were right’. And I am sure his first to me will be ‘All is forgiven.’ They say in heaven there are no tears but on that day, I am sure I will break that rule.