MY sister and I grew up without a father in the house. And sometimes I thought that I missed out by not having a dad--someone to play catch with or just talk with about the things children can talk with their father about.

While our mother never said so directly, I feel sure she was aware of this apparent lack, for she took many steps that, as I look back on them now, did much to make sure my sister and I felt ``fathered'' as well as ``mothered.'' Of everything she did, though, the most important thing was to instill in us the knowledge that God is our Father and Mother. She had learned this from her study of the Bible and of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. In fact, one of the ways Mrs. Eddy talks about God is to call Him our Father-Mother God! I felt such a sense of peace in knowing this. It was as if I was in God's arms and did not need to be concerned. I had a very real Father.

This thought of God as Father-Mother has been very comforting to me throughout the years. I have learned to talk with God as Father and Mother, to share my feelings, ask advice, and--when I have listened--hear the answer.

Sometimes listening to what God is saying is no easy task! It requires me to put aside my own personal wishes and plans and preconceptions and listen to learn God's will. The story of Naaman in the second book of Kings in the Bible (see 5:1-15) has helped me see how important it is to do this. Naaman, a commander in the Syrian army, was a leper. On the advice of a captive maid from Israel he goes to Israel, a neighboring enemy, to find the prophet Elisha so he can be healed. When, instead of coming himself, Elisha sends a servant to tell Naaman to wash in the river Jordan, Naaman feels humiliated. He'd expected the prophet himself to come out and heal him! The Bible tells us he ``went away in a rage.'' His servants, however, point out that Elisha's request was a simple one--and Naaman would have been willing to do much harder things to be healed. Then Naaman gives up his preconceived ideas, humbles himself, washes in Jordan, and is healed. How often I have had to give up preconceptions and humble myself so I can hear my Father's plan!

Several years ago my two boys faced being fatherless because of a divorce. Although I had visitation rights every other week, the distance made regular visits difficult. I loved them deeply, and I did not want them to feel fatherless. Once again I had to pray and trust God to give me the answer I needed. Who really was their father? In the deepest sense, I knew, God, divine Love, is their Father, even as He is my Father. As Mrs. Eddy says in Science and Health: ``Love, the divine Principle, is the Father and Mother of the universe, including man'' (p. 256). Surely these boys were under God's care. They could not lack the fatherly companionship or love that their true Father-Mother was always giving them.

Shortly thereafter their mother married a man who was kind and loving to the boys. He even coached their baseball team, something I could not have done because of my job. The boys and I saw each other over the summers. We've always had a strong, caring relationship.

In Matthew, Christ Jesus tells us firmly: ``Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven'' (23:9). Recognizing God as my true Father freed me from feeling fatherless as a child and freed me from feeling inadequate as a parent. I was able to place all of us in God's hands and to be willing to follow and trust His command.

We're never outside our Father's love and care.

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