Earlier this year, my son learned how to ride his bike.
Now, for years I had anticipated that this would be one of those seminal dad moments: pushing my son along until he got up enough speed, offering calm and encouraging words telling him exactly how to do it ... like something out of a cheesy yet heartwarming movie.
Instead, my role ended up just being to run alongside him to give a quick catch if he tumbled. My wife was communicating much more clearly than I was, and our son basically already knew the theory of how to ride. Was I even needed?
I can’t say I was completely torn up about this, but this otherwise lovely event hadn’t really felt the way I’d imagined it would. Obviously, my son will not need me for everything in his life, and that’s perfectly right and natural. But the day had left me feeling a little lost about this whole dad role in general.
I’ve always found it so helpful to pray about any concerns I have, so later that evening, I just asked God point-blank, “What am I supposed to be doing for this kid?” Almost immediately, I felt embraced in a warm presence and felt this idea just soak into me: “You just need to be there.”
This was an answer totally divorced from accomplishments, comparisons, or anything else I’d been expecting. I realized it wasn’t even a personal thing; there are many people who don’t have their dad with them, or who aren’t parents themselves, but we can still all “be there” for others.
This reminded me of some biblical imagery from the prophet Isaiah: “Each [one of them] will be like a hiding place from the wind and a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry land, like the shade of a huge rock in a parched and weary land [to those who turn to them]” (Isaiah 32:2, Amplified Bible).
What is it that enables moms, dads, siblings, friends, and co-workers to be there like this for each other? Everyone has different needs and situations, and sometimes we may just not feel equipped to effectively support others. Is there the possibility of one center, if you will, around which all people can orient themselves and be empowered to be there for others in ways that meet the need of the moment?
Yes. Throughout the ages, people have felt in varying degrees the divine presence with them, helping them. At the front and center is Christ Jesus, who through his life-example and healing ministry declared the presence of heaven right here and now. Jesus showed that God not only is here but is the creator of us all and cares for His spiritual offspring unfailingly.
This is a trustworthy foundation to build on. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered the law and present applicability – the Science – of what Jesus taught, described the unifying, strengthening power of God like this: “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself;’ annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, – whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 340).
Keeping the nature of God, Spirit, infinite good, central in our hearts and aims brings the inspiration and guidance we need to know how to be there for others. Acknowledging the supremacy of God saves us from the egotism that may sometimes infect our desire to help and rescues us from feeling ill-equipped to actually be there for others.
As we consider the nature of God – described in the Bible as merciful, just, good, loving – and of ourselves as God’s children, literally the effect of God’s being, we are increasingly moved to express that nature, to truly live divine Love. Maybe it will be manifested in the little (or big!) moments of parenthood, just being there while a loved one succeeds (or simply tries their best), volunteering for a local group, or even praying with someone in search of healing. Whatever form it takes, living the Love that shelters like a rock in a desert and comforts like a stream in a dry land is exactly what we are made to do.