Friday, June 15, 2007

Dads and Roads

Daddies aren’t perfect. None are. But sometimes there are perfect moments with dads. The favorite memories my children share of their dad are not about manufactured moments of fun or expensive gifts.

Over the years, two recollections get retold at family gatherings. One involves a parfait, and another is about a spitting contest. On both occasions, the children thought they might get scolded, but you can read the outcomes.

When we treated our young children to ice cream, they usually ordered something gooey. Once, our daughter had a peanut butter and chocolate parfait. It arrived in a tall, very thin plastic container. Seated in the booth — her parfait half finished half melted — she squeezed the fragile goblet, shattering it like an egg shell.

Parfait launched. Most went the direction of her dad’s face. We froze. Creamy goodness frosted his brows. After a quick swipe with a Dairy Queen napkin, he unveiled a smile. How do you spell relief? S-M-I-L-E.

The other memory is from our son, who proposed a reckless spitting contest on a summer day. The kids, now young teens, had worked alongside us building our hay barn. We waited for my husband, about ten feet away with his back to us, to put away his tools.

Our son said to his younger sister. “I bet you can’t spit to where daddy is.” Dry-mouthed she came up short. Then, practiced, husky son made his attempt, but at the perfect-wrong-moment, his dad turned to face him and was hit square in the chest. I saw the horrified looks on both the kids’ faces, and so did their dad. Their looks so comical, he had to laugh.

Kids of every age will mess up, and many problems can’t be swiped away by a Dairy Queen napkin. I believe that’s why Jesus told the story about the young man who left home and family, the prodigal son and the waiting father. Vacationing from family values, the son spiraled into life-threatening sin.

But God granted repentance to him, and he trekked toward home. He planned to ask his father to hire him as a laborer. Ashamed, he knew he didn’t deserve to sleep in the guest room or to be welcomed back into the family.

But it seems the dad’s eyes had never wandered far from the last place he’d seen his son, the road that took him away. One day, there was no mistaking the silhouette on the road. The father knew his unique son. He ran to meet him, wrapped his arms around his boy. Initiating a celebration, he said, “[T]his son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24).

Family misdemeanors and felonies will happen. Rifts or healing can follow. Many thanks to fathers who let children know that the road near your house is not a single lane but a two way street, one that leads home.

Happy Father’s Day.

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