Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Have we not all one father?

It's difficult to convey the significance of today's photograph without telling the whole story, and yet so much of the story cannot be told; in part out of respect for the privacy of others; and in part because the feeling beneath the story defies any attempt to describe it in words.

The story has to do with fathers:

My dad left me with enough "father issues" to last a lifetime, and unfortunately I decided to multiply them in my adulthood.

I met a friend today for lunch...someone I once regarded as a son, but for reasons of confidentiality, I will not reveal his name. When he introduced me to his new girlfriend, he said, "This is my dad." But later, I had the chance to meet his biological mom and her partner, and he said, "This is Barry; he was like a dad to me." I suppose both statements accurately reflect the nature of our relationship, but I also sensed confusion, ambiguity, and pain in the simple statements he made regarding his relationship to me.

Afterwards, he and I talked about his biological father, and he told me the most heartwrenching story. Apparently, his mom was dating a man from this community, but she was raped by another man in California when she became pregnant with my friend. "My mom says I look more like the man who raped her," he said sadly, "I guess that means I'm the child of rape." He spoke the last words with such disgust and contempt for self, as if to imply, "I'm just a bastard, and I'll never amount to anything more than that." It pained my heart to witness my friend speak so negatively about himself. Without thinking, I said, "You're not the child of rape; you're a child of God."

Later in the day, I dropped him off at his new apartment, and as I drove away, I passed the Congregational Church on South Maple. The church stands like a Greek temple, with stately pillars and a magnificent inscription made of stone: "Have we not all one Father." Something about the church spoke to my heart and I stopped to take a photograph.

As I reflected on the events of the day, I realized the inscription above the door of that temple was a revelation from God. I have fretted about my own father issues for so many years, and then complicated it by worrying about this friend and my own children...but this great truth remains unchanged: no matter what circumstances befall us in life, we all have but one Father.

We are all related.

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