I sent a card off in the mail yesterday to by Dad back in Iowa. Like most Americans, I wanted to honor my Dad’s presence in my life, share with him how much I admire him for his loving ways. I couldn’t help but think of my Dad’s “loving ways” in relation to my sense of God and Church. I admire my Dad because he is unconditionally loving, a good listener, supportive of the best I offer, gentle in his demeanor, compassionate in his approach, open to mystery – I could go on. My Dad’s masculinity doesn’t masquerade as hard-handed, non-emotional, detached from feeling, closed. When I misbehaved it was a meaningful conversation. When he disagreed with me it was a chance to dialogue. This is what I most admire about my Father – gentleness and compassion, even in times of struggle and frustration.
I can’t help but think of God as the same “Abba” type – radically loving and unconditionally inclusive. When I misbehave its meaningful prayer and healing, the chance to have a “coming to God” moment. God and I dialogue through challenge and strife, hurt and pain, myself always aware of his constant presence and support. This is a compassionate God with attributes like my human father. Perhaps I should mail a card, or at least acknowledge in some special way this coming Sunday, what my God is for me.
Lastly, I can’t help but think of communities that have been a witness to this type of loving existence and relationship. My Dad embodies what many in today’s Church know to be true – hope wins over fear, love conquers hate. While the institutional Church hasn’t always espoused this philosophy, it’s leaders are continually being called to exist as true fathers (and hopefully someday mothers) of the Church – patient and kind, compassionate and loving, radically inclusive and openly just.
At the heart of it all, maybe it’s how we define Fatherhood and Motherhood that really matters. My hope is that this is defined in relational terms: loving fathers/mothers, a compassionate God, and a just Church. We have already experienced the alternative.