The Father and the Son
They sit together, the cherished son on his father’s lap, as the project unfolds before them. The work is the father’s. The work is the son’s. The son labors diligently, while the father’s thick, calloused, gentle hands remain near those of the son, monitoring every movement and only now and then intervening directly. The son seeks from his father direction; from his face, he seeks reassurance. The father loves nothing more than this interacting with his son. He encourages, affirms, instructs, reminds, corrects, and encourages some more. Though their communication is nearly constant, only rarely do they use words. The son knows such unique joy in this interaction with his father, especially while he is participating in the father’s work.
The son questions his father about a part of a task that is outside of his limited understanding. Especially difficult for him to understand are delays in the completion of a task and the (not infrequent) requests of his father to suffer or sacrifice. To these questions, the father sometimes answers his son directly, he sometimes smiles and he sometimes responds with a sober embrace. At times the son quits because of fatigue, distraction, or frustration and the father’s work continues smoothly and efficiently. The son knows the freedom of choosing how and when he participates in his father’s work combined with the certainty of knowing his father’s love and joy in him always.
When the son believes that he has erred and harmed the work, invariably the father provides a remedy such that no harm comes to the work. The son still, however, sometimes wonders if his father’s love for him is compromised because of his failure. But when the son then looks up at his dad, he sees in his eyes only affection and never disappointment, frustration or surprise. He realizes then again that nothing ever changes in his father. When he focuses on his flawed performance, the son wonders if his father’s joy in him remains and if he can harm his father’s work or alter its successful completion. But when he turns his attention from himself to his father, these doubts and questions become lost in the trust that he has for this man. He remembers again the many times that he has seen his father transform his ugly failures into something truly beautiful.
When another child arrives and inquires about his father or their relationship, the son sometimes has difficulty knowing how to respond, so he turns the seeker’s attention to his father. Oh, the joy he feels when he sees another child experience his father’s love! And how sad he feels when his father is ridiculed, hated, or unappreciated. Most kids constantly make requests of his father for things that he might give them but they couldn’t care less about his love and wisdom. When the son is periodically mocked and criticized by others, he recognizes his choice to pursue either their pleasure or that of his father.
Sometimes, the father calls his son to another project. At times he uses a clear, definitive request and at other times he uses subtle, wordless nudges. He has never forced his son to take on any particular project. The son also sometimes seeks specific direction about a decision from his father and this always pleases him. He responds by either directly communicating his specific desires to his son, or by offering the decision to him and reassuring him that he will be right there with him on whatever project he chooses. Working together and interacting means far more to the father than any task either of them might choose. When the son desires to move to a new project, he knows that he can either wait for word from his father, move on his own initiative, or rely on the counsel of his friends. He has experienced the consequences of each.
Daily, the son faces distraction. There are so many things that he would like to do beyond the project at hand. There have been times when the son has left the presence of his father and chosen to work or play independently of him. An overwhelming desire initially motivates the son to wander, sometimes to seek a particular place or activity and sometimes to simply seek independence. There is always an initial excitement, followed by a sense of vulnerability and insecurity. Although the father has never prohibited his son’s leaving, and has always embraced him upon his return, the son is learning that independence never goes well. Though it is always associated with a sense of power and pleasure, each time he has chosen his own way, he has learned the loneliness of seeking in himself, in other people, or in work or other activity that which only his father’s joy in him can provide. Each time he learns again that any project done apart from his father ends empty. Today, he lives with the realization that a significant part of him is bent on living independently of his father and that this independence is not only unhealthy but will destroy him. And the son now knows from experience that, though he can commit no error that will surprise or anger his father, his independence is outside of his father’s pleasure.
There is no compulsion in the father. His desire is closeness with his most precious son, and only this gives him pleasure. His joy is never found in the task itself as this simply provides a medium through which he can draw closer to his son. Never, however, is this closeness obligated. The perpetual posture of the father remains in invitation and nothing prevents him from being always available for his son. His affection for his son motivates him to call and invite often, but never to mandate or control. He steers, instructs, encourages, and freely offers his wisdom and knowledge, but it is always up to the son to receive.
One of the father’s dearest projects is a future home for his son. He has spoken of it but it is beyond the son’s ability to see. It is a project of hope as he greatly anticipates the day when they will live and work and interact together without distraction. He works quickly, as the joyous day soon approaches.