MY new friend Annie was telling me about her family and childhood in New York City. She lived with her sister and their father and mother in a brownstone on a quiet tree-lined street. Every evening after dinner the family gathered in the parlor. At this special time their father would choose whether to play the violin or to talk to them about God. When Annie was almost four, she created one of the family's favorite stories by prefacing the family hour with a matter-of-fact ``Daddy, are we going to have God or the violin tonight?''
Of course I responded to the humor and charm of the account, but also I felt stirrings of envy. ``Oh, I wish our family had done something like that. What a heritage,'' I said. I tried to think of my dad in such a setting. The only instrument he might have tried, in the wildest stretch of my imagination, would have been a snare drum--in a marching band. But we changed houses and cities so often, and he was away on business so much of the time, that it was unusual even to have dinner together, let alone to gather afterward in the parlor for Mozart. And though I think he did follow God in his way--being a man of integrity and generosity--his was a silent worship that neither my brother nor I was able to fully understand, and he apparently couldn't share.
Explaining this to Annie, I didn't sound very appreciative of my father. Her response gave me much to think about: ``So that was your dad, and my dad was mine. Neither one was the definitive father, but no one can be, humanly. The only way to get the real perspective on fathers, past or present, is to think of God as our real Father.''
It was an important statement, which I've thought a great deal about. It helped me to realize that I had allowed a longing for a past that never had been, to fog up my recognition of the good that is in the present. Yearning over lost opportunities, or over compassion that never came, we can easily overlook the unique characteristics that were a blessing.
Whether our past included deprivation and misery or we just wish we had had something different, it's possible to get a better perspective. Even a sense of loss can be healed through an understanding of one's true Father as God, and through coming to see oneself as the child of God, always cared for and cherished. Through this spiritual identification we can, evening by evening, have God and the violin. The basis for this spiritual approach is Christ Jesus' message of man's relation to God. He said, ``Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.''1 There's no indication that Jesus was denying the value of human parents and of their good influences. Wasn't he moving thought from the confined, and confining, sense of man as material to the inspired vision of man as the offspring of Spirit, God?
In this spiritual origination--the only one each of us really has--man is not physical, biological, a product of inexorable genetics. He is always the full expression of the divine Parent and includes every pure quality and idea.
It's interesting how metaphysical truths, closely cherished, bring about a release from sorrow over the past. We don't abandon the human scene and relationships. But by discerning what is spiritually correct about ourselves and others we see things in a new, healing light. It's easier to love and be loved. In a message to her Church, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``Spiritual love makes man conscious that God is his Father, and the consciousness of God as Love gives man power with untold furtherance.''2
The more I looked to God as my real Father, the more the good things about my dad occurred to me. Violins and Mozart may not have been his strength, but you know, he did build me a doll- house, and when he was in town he never missed one of my brother's football games.
1Matthew 23:9. 2Message to The Mother Church for 1902, pp. 8-9. You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32