In the picture, my daughter's soccer coach stands behind her, speaking enthusiastically about her prospects to play in high school and beyond. The little girl in front of him looks embarrassed, yet pleased.
I remember that night and the tears in my eyes as I listened to the small speech the coach had prepared for each of the girls at the season-end party.
As a single mom, I was grateful not only for the coach's affection for all his wiggly charges, but for the expression of fatherhood he'd brought into my daughter's life at a time when she really needed it.
We'd recently moved to a new city and didn't know many people. Among the challenges of single parenthood is how to make sure the child has a balanced experience. How to make sure the person you love so much isn't deprived of either mothering or fathering.
I'd had many nights worrying about that. My daughter and I did a lot together, but I was haunted by the studies about girls left without fathers and the dire predictions for their "normal" relationship, as adults, with men.
When I have a problem, my solution often comes through prayer. So it was natural this time for me to look to the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, and to the Bible for answers.
Christ Jesus has a startling thing to say: "Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven" (Matt. 23:9). Of course I knew Jesus was speaking of God as our Father. But still, his counsel is not to identify any human being as our father – or, I reasoned, the originator – of our true selves.
Mrs. Eddy spoke of God as "Father-Mother." She identified our divine Parent explicitly: "Love, the divine Principle, is the Father and Mother of the universe, including man" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 256). She said elsewhere, "Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation" (p. 332).
This eternal presence, I knew, is always with us. I'd often thought about how my efforts to be a good mother were successful to the extent I drew close to God so that I reflected divine, parental love to my daughter. But the apparent lack of fathering in my daughter's life bothered, and, actually, scared me.
But Jesus' and Mrs. Eddy's statements gave me pause. I knew that God loves all His children, and that included both my daughter and me. He'd never put us in a situation where we lacked anything, because Love is synonymous with our Father-Mother God. And I knew what love felt like. I'd never deprive my daughter of anything she needed, because I loved her. So I felt sure that, as we moved away from where my daughter had been lovingly fathered by her grandpa, there must already be a provision to continue that care.
There was. First, our new church had a wonderful couple who took us in. The husband even donned a chauffeur's hat and drove us in his special car to the airport anytime we flew. He was around if we needed anything – stacking firewood, helping with our car – nothing was an imposition.
Then there were several soccer coaches. Also, a family included us in every holiday, school celebration, and birthday, and even took us on vacation with them. The father was as loving to my daughter as he was to his own two girls.
And, as my daughter grew up new father figures came into her life. Fathers of friends, teachers – not only was there never a lack, there was always an abundance. So much so that I no longer thought much about the issue.
In fact, only as I was sorting through a box of photos did it come to mind. Seeing the early soccer coach attend so lovingly to an embarrassed little girl reminded me of how well God had cared for both of us. So well, in fact, that I needed a reminder to recall it was ever a concern.