Monday, June 16, 2014

Father's Day

by Alice Valdal

The newspaper in my home town decided to do a "memories of Dad" column for father's day and sent a request to my brother for a contribution.  Quick as a mouse click, he passed the request to me.  I didn't mind.  I loved my dad and I love words.  But the constraints of two inches of newsprint column required that I distil a lifetime of moments into one, quintessential thought.  In the end, I realized, my father's greatest gift to his children was our home.  No matter the time, no matter the day, no matter the circumstances we could always go home and be welcomed with joy and open arms.

    Then I remembered another story.  A young man from my home province, raised in a "good" family, made bad choices and ended up on the streets in Victoria.  He eventually found his way to the Open Door, a ministry for street people housed in my old church.  There he found a peanut butter sandwich, a compassionate friend and a good listener.  After a time, the young man cleaned himself up, recognized his errors and decided to go home.  The delighted pastor made the phone call, the good news for the young man's family, their lost son was found and ready to return to them.  But the family didn't care.  They would not come to get him, they would not send a ticket, they would not even talk with him on the telephone.

    When that story was related from the pulpit, the gasps around the congregation were audible.  A father not want his son back?  A mother who turned her back on her child?  Could any rejection be more painful?

    No wonder the Prodigal Son is one of the best known and best loved parables in the Bible.  We all long for home.  We all long for a love that doesn't measure the cost, for a father who opens his arms and his heart, who kills the fatted calf and throws a party to welcome back the one who wandered away.

     As a child, I took my family and my home for granted, believing everyone shared my experience.  I've learned since that I was wrong.  Not all homes are places of refuge and love.  Not all fathers are generous and kind. 
    On Father's Day, I thank God for my father, and I thank God that He is Father to us all.  A Father who never fails, who never turns away from a penitent child, a Father whose greatest joy is His children.

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