Getting to Know Him
“Dad, I have a question for you,” It was the second anniversary of my mother’s death, and he and I had met at the cemetery. As we stood among the urns and crypts, the silence of the place pressed in on me, made it hard to breathe. So I launched a conversation.
“Go ahead,” he said.
“Way back when I was at the church reserving the fellowship hall for you and Mom’s golden anniversary party, I got to talking with the church secretary. She dug out an old book and showed me the record of Auntie M’s baptism, in 1939. I remember Grandma and Grandpa Downs going to church….” My voice sputtered out.
“I don’t remember your parents going to church. Did they?”
Dad looked out over the green, green lawn, dotted with markers every eight feet, a bench tucked in here and there. I wondered if he noticed the contrivance of peace landscaped into this place.
“My parents went to weddings and funerals,” he told me.
“So, did you start attending church when you met Mom?”
I pressed. “Well, when did you start to attend?”
“When I was eight. All the other children in the neighborhood went to Sunday school, so I thought I should go too. I rode my bike to Sunday school.”
“Not really. I visited several churches, even a Christian Scientist church, before I settled down at one.”
My heart zipped back to the Sunday mornings of my childhood. Mom would be racing about, fastening plastic barrettes in my hair, hunting for the patent-leather Mary Jane that had gone into hiding since the previous Sabbath. And Dad?
Dad would be in the driveway, warming up the car.
I turned and studied my father as if I’d never seen him before, puzzling to work this new information into my understanding of him. I pictured a little boy on a blue bicycle, pedaling off alone on a Sunday morning, wobbling down the driveway as he took himself to Sunday school.
As a child, I confused proximity with causality. Since Mom was the one hurrying to tame my wayward hair, track down my sister’s fugitive shoe, and pack baby brother’s diaper bag, I’d always figured that she was the motivating force behind my family’s church attendance. I thought our faith was a Mom thing.
Now I had a new sense of its importance to Dad. It mattered enough that he’d gone alone, as a small boy, to learn.
I thought of my weekly phone calls home. Over the years, it was always the same: If Dad answered, he’d ask how I was, then say, “Let me get your mom.” All those years I’d figured Dad wasn’t interested in talking on the phone.
But now our phone conversations would stretch over time, leisurely-like. I remembered him telling me, a few days after Mom died, how he regretted taking those faraway jobs that distanced them from us kids once we had grown up. “She missed you so,” he’d said.
It took a small black-haired boy, riding off alone on his blue bicycle to look for Jesus, to point it out to me.
17 “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. 18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.
2 Corinthians 6:17-18 (NASB)