Ash Wednesday, March 1
A Father’s Love
I grew up in the postwar 40s, the Norman Rockwell 50s and came of age during the sit-in 60s. My mother was a confirmed Missouri Synod Lutheran. My father was a lapsed Catholic from a long line of lapsed Catholics. Their union was something of a scandal at the time – the 1940s version of a mixed marriage.
I never knew my father very well. He was off to war in Europe when I was born. After the war, he came home briefly, but I have only foggy memories of the few years between that homecoming and the time he was called up again, this time to Korea. In my six-year-old eyes, Dad was handsome, charming and funny. He came home from Korea a few years later, but he was never the same person again.
He couldn’t handle life after Korea. He bounced around from one job to another. He couldn’t take care of his family, nor did he show any particular interest in doing so. A huge burden fell on my mother. She was a high school graduate with four young children and no résumé. Her father was able to help her find basic employment. It was a struggle, but we made it through. We kids had a part to play. As the oldest, I had the most responsibilities, some of which were quite difficult for me, since I had to give up parts of my teenage social life to make it happen.
My earthly father never loved, protected or guided me, and to this day I have trouble grasping the concept of a loving father who watches over his children and cares for them every day in every way. If a father loves his children, why doesn’t he protect them and keep them safe? By that same logic, if God is our heavenly Father who loves his children, why do we have starvation and homelessness and war? Why does the loving Father allow so much misery in this world? Has the Father deserted his children? If he really loves them, why doesn’t he protect them and keep them safe?
I don’t understand the ways of God, the Father. I can’t explain why good people suffer. And yet, I somehow believe this Father loves me and all his children.
As we begin the season of Lent, our thoughts turn to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, beloved Son, sent by the Father. We may ask why God the Father allows bad things to happen to good people, but look! He sent his Son to die a horrifying death, just for us. We receive the ashes today, and we are reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Though we are nothing more than dust in the great scheme of things, the Father promises that, because of Jesus, we will live with God forever. What love! What a promise!
What a mystery!
[Lenten Index | Tomorrow]