One of the commandments chiseled into Moses' tablet weighed heavily in my thought for years: "Honour thy father and thy mother." The mother part was simple since my mom was a gem and it was easy to honor and love her.
Honoring my dad was another matter.
Like many boys, I longed for a dad with a sense of humor and outward expressions of love for his family, someone who would spend time playing ball with me. But that was not my dad. He was a serious, hard-working type who left the child rearing mainly to my mom. Except when it came to discipline. He repeatedly hit me, often with a wooden stick or a belt. Both the physical and verbal discipline would probably be classified today as abusive.
As a teenager, I avoided my dad. Our relationship became strained, and I held on to hard feelings about him. Then, gradually, a personal search for God began to change my whole outlook.
I read about new ways to pray in the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper. This caused me to stop pleading with God to change my circumstances. I came to appreciate how God is truly my Creator, my heavenly Parent, through ideas like this: "Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 332).
Initially, I struggled with what felt like a transcendental concept of tenderly being fathered and mothered directly by Deity instead of by two mortals. Gradually, I recognized many ways in which God was indeed inspiring, supporting, and guiding me. By regularly listening for divine direction, I found improved living arrangements and wonderful new friends. I was led to approach old problems in new ways and found many aspects of my life improving, including relationships. The realization dawned that God is an active, involved Parent - always there, all-ways loving.
As I accepted Deity's parental role in my life, I had to acknowledge that my dad, too, was fathered by God. It was very helpful to reevaluate my childhood in this light. I recognized that in his own way, my dad had been trying to show love. He worked hard to support his family and to instill values that I respect today. He was always honest, faithful to my mother, and often selfless. Focusing on these positive qualities enabled me to release the bad memories of our time together. It also enabled me to better follow the biblical command to honor my father.
God's direction allowed me to shed preconceived expectations of what my dad should be. And what kind of son I should be. The strain disappeared. What evolved was not a best-buddy relationship, but an amicable one that was right for both of us.
There have also been some loving moments when we have both been able to express deeper feelings for each other. I still remember the first time we hugged. Although this happened years after I graduated from college and moved to another state, it brought tears of appreciation. Today I find that I honor both my dad and God by acknowledging Deity alone as the source of all love and understanding, expressed to and through all.
A particularly challenging part of my healing journey was in trying to understand why my childhood had been difficult at times. What helped most was realizing that my heavenly Father was there supporting me as He is today, although I didn't know it as clearly then as I do now. I can see that God gave me many other avenues to grow and that this helped me overcome the difficulties at home. I've even been able to help my sister recognize similar ideas in her search to make peace with my dad.
Although not a father myself, I've found ways to express a fathering type of care, love, and practical assistance to many relatives and friends, both children and adults. This fathering has confirmed for me that God is indeed Father-Mother, of me and everyone. No matter what our age, it is strengthening to know that our divine Parent is watching, instructing, loving, and assisting us, moment by moment.