A LOVING FATHER WOULD NOT DO …
My father and I did not go to ball games; neither did we go to the cinema; neither did we go camping. On rare occasions we went to the seaside and almost every night from the age of 9-15 I would wait for him to come home from the pub.
At 11 p.m. every night, I would shout down the stairs, “Goodnight, Dad.” He would shout back: “Goodnight love,” and with the next breath, turn to my mother and whisper, “ Is she still awake?”
Once I knew he was home, I could sleep. We were together; we were safe. My father was an undeclared alcoholic. Yet despite this dysfunction, I knew I was loved. I knew that his behaviors resulted from early childhood hurts and the heartaches impressed upon many during WWII. Like many during this era, he wore wounds that could not be mended through medicine or surgery. They were wounds of the mind– never to be resolved.
Recently, some words of another father have echoed in my soul. “A loving father would never do that,” he said. The person who let these words roll off his tongue was holocaust survivor, 94 year old Boris Abel. Boris had recently lost his only daughter who had fallen down the stairs and hit her head. She was taken to hospital and never returned home. If there was a God, he surely would never have allowed this to happen was the thought Boris was expressing through these words.
Boris was going through the anger every parent must feel at the death of his or her child. It is the anger we bring to God when our circumstances do not seem to fit our concept of a righteous, loving, tenderhearted, passionate Father-God.
For two years Boris and his family were forced to live in a ghetto. He was transported to Landsberg Labor Camp in 1943 where he worked on the construction of an underground Messerschmitt airplane factory. In 1945 when he was liberated he weighed a mere 70 lbs. Apparently, it was common to return from a ten hour work shift and forced to go back immediately for another ten hours. Prisoners did not speak to one another and were killed on the spot if they were caught talking to one another. It is incredulous to think that seventy two members of Boris’ family were killed, mostly in the gas chambers, but some (including one of his sisters) were buried alive.
But despite these horrors, Boris has lived a righteous life; one that was faithful to his children and to his wife who now suffers with Parkinson’s disease. I have watched his life; observed this over-ninety year old carry bags of heavy groceries and tend to the needs of his aging wife in the hospital and now at home. Regardless of his struggles, Boris has looked in the face of life and remained faithful—to his son and his family, to his daughter who suffered for many years with a mental illness, to his wife who now suffers with Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. Each dawn brings new struggles he needs to face, new aches and pains of old age, new medications to be concerned about, new challenges for this ninety-four year old.
And I cannot help ponder about his words. I think of this loving family man who rises each morning to face new changes, new losses, I believe. And what do I believe in? I believe that Boris was made in the image of God who is faithful to a broken world, a world that has often rejected him. Yet through it all, he is able to smile at his wife, at his grandchildren, at the beauty of life itself.
When I consider my less than perfect father, who struggled with alcoholism, I realize that it was the tender heart that made him so wretched. He was a man who could not endure suffering and so he tried to escape the hurt, the pain. And it is this longing for something more than the evil we witness, that is, for me, the evidence for the Eternal, Loving, Heavenly, Father. I believe in God because he has given us hearts that long for a perfect Father—one who is loving, faithful, and just. “A loving Father would never do that,” said Boris. No, my friend, Boris, I agree with you. With all my heart I believe that a loving Father would never do that. A loving Father would come to earth to show us how much He loved us. He might even take the pain for us. He might even die for us. The Evil does not come from the loving Heavenly Father. The Evil remains the mystery.
I see a man sitting on a park bench
After they have plundered his home
After they have raped his wife
After they have killed his children
Smiling at the daisy struggling to survive among the weeds.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.