A father is neither an anchor to hold us back, nor a sail to take us there, but a guiding light whose love shows us the way. (George Webster Douglas)
I write to you both as a son and a father and a grandfather who has been on both the receiving end and the giving end of human love. I write to you as one who has experienced the love of the only Father who ultimately counts, who resides in the heavenly realm. I write as someone who has observed the connection between the two. As Father’s Day approaches, allow me to reflect a bit on the two realities.
It is a tricky thing to be a father, or a parent in general for that matter. The delicate balance between appropriate freedom and rampant chaos — the fine line between appropriate boundaries and arbitrary domineering — the gossamer thread that separates the guiding light from a blinding laser — these are subtle lines that we seek to walk in raising our children. It is hard to know when our guiding light has turned into an anchoring presence that holds our children back from their development into adults; or when it seeks to provide too much direction to our children, thus robbing them of their choice and the process of maturation which accompanies both good choices and poor ones. The guiding light is the goal of parenting, but it is an elusive goal as often as not.
We would be lost, were it not for the love of God, showing us the way, and modeling for us the kind of guidance and direction that is best for us. As Lutherans we cherish the theological doctrine of human freedom — the choice God has made to allow us to either reject his love or accept it — the decision to opt for faithful living or sinful rejection of that life in community. We firmly believe that God takes no pleasure in millions of little robots that can do nothing but love and obey him. For without the potential of our rejection of God, the love and faith we devote to God is hollow at best and meaningless at worst. Thus God risks the possibility that we might in fact choose rejection, in order that when our acceptance occurs, it is true and free.
And so, as you pray and meditate this week, consider that gift of freedom, which God has granted to you. Reflect on how that benediction has enriched your faith life. Consider what life would be like without it … if you are able to, for without freedom would we be capable of creative thinking at all? Are you able to share that “guiding light” with those you love, or are you tempted to be either anchor or sail? Contemplate what your live would be like without it, and that may serve as motivation for your need to free up, or tighten up. Whether you are a father, or a mother, or a grandparent, or a mentor of some other stripe … this kind of reflection can only help to build your sense of satisfaction in the task and your trust in God to be as free with others as God has been with you.