Each year as Father's Day approaches, my thoughts settle on a dear friend. A father to me when I was a teen, he's like a brother to me now.
Over the years, I've turned to this man – let's call him Mark – for advice about everything from careers to cars, finances to future plans. Had I married, he would have been the one to walk me down the aisle. When I adopted my daughter, he and his wife were among the first to meet her.
Countless times I've seen Mark's generosity, integrity, devotion, and creativity bless family members, friends, neighbors, even strangers. In particular, one long stretch of selfless devotion stands out in my mind.
Mark cared for his wife day in and day out when she was confined to bed for over a year. He had the help and expertise of a wonderful nurse, but he was the one on duty 24/7, preparing meals, providing physical care, being good company (through the night when necessary), and forever fetching whatever was beyond her reach.
To be fair, Mark's wife – let's call her Mary – was the love of his life for nearly 40 years. She was also a remarkable patient. Her wisdom, cheer, and sense of humor weren't diminished by her lack of mobility. Even so, providing round-the-clock care for even the best of patients is extremely demanding. Yet Mark did so with unflappable grace.
It's typical – or rather stereotypical – to associate the domestic and nurturing aspects of nursing with femininity. As Mark proved, however, women don't have a corner on caring any more than men have an edge when it comes to courage.
Each of us includes God's full nature. The Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, explained as much in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "Man and woman as coexistent and eternal with God forever reflect, in glorified quality, the infinite Father-Mother God" (p. 516).
I'll never forget one afternoon when Mary was resting and Mark and I were in the sun room. As we sat chatting, his cellphone rang. He could tell, of course, that it was Mary calling – probably for the thousandth time that month. Yet he answered with the most genuine joy in his voice, as though he were getting a call from her back in the days when they were dating.
The whole exchange took less than a minute. She asked for something; he said, "Sure," and took it to her. Meanwhile, I sat marveling at the way he'd answered the phone. Given how many months this had gone on, how could his voice be perfectly free of impatience, exhaustion, discouragement? None of that was present – not even a tinge. The love of his life was calling, and he was thrilled to hear from her. End of story.
The unshakable love I heard in Mark's voice hints at the "tone" God uses with us. Each of us is the love of God, divine Life. The Bible refers to this prized position as being the apple of God's eye (see Deut. 32:10 and Ps. 17:8).
Sometimes, though, when we're stuck in a problem, it can be hard to feel God's love. That's where Christ comes in. Mrs. Eddy explains Christ as "the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error" (Science and Health, p. 583).
Through His Christ, His manifestation, God answers our prayers, quiets our fears, and guides us in right directions. Sometimes we hear God in strong, bold tones; sometimes in a whisper; sometimes through a feeling. No matter what form it takes, God's message is brimming with love.
Mark was reflecting divine Love in his response to Mary. God is being divine Love in His responses to us.
Whenever possible, I spend Father's Day with Mark. Sometimes we go on a family outing; other times we just hang out. Whatever we do, Mark reminds me, through his example, of the tender tone with which our Father-Mother God answers our calls.