Undoubtedly, the most basic definition of “father” is a man who has begotten a child. But after 50 years with two sons of my own, I can say that this purely biological definition by no means approaches what it means to be a father.
There are so many other qualities of fatherhood – among the most significant are nurturing, caring, protecting, guiding, and loving. Christian Science reveals these qualities as originating not in ourselves, but in the one divine Father of us all, God, and boundlessly reflected in each of us. And it’s this spiritual fact that I have worked at demonstrating in my own life, to be the best dad I can be to my sons.
God, Spirit, is at every moment caring for, protecting, and expressing love in all of us, His spiritual offspring. In her seminal work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy writes: “In Science man is the offspring of Spirit. The beautiful, good, and pure constitute his ancestry. His origin is not, like that of mortals, in brute instinct, nor does he pass through material conditions prior to reaching intelligence. Spirit is his primitive and ultimate source of being; God is his Father, and Life is the law of his being” (p. 63).
For sure, praying from this basis helped me in supporting my own children’s potential, from their first steps to their first jobs; in being there for them when the going was tough; in encouraging them when things didn’t work out as hoped; in finding healing and comfort when they were sick or in trouble. Deeply cherishing and holding to the spiritual fact that God, divine Life itself, is our Father proved comforting, even life-saving, when each of my sons went through a life-threatening experience.
For instance, there was the time my college-age son called me from his cell phone early one morning with fear and panic in his voice, asking me to pray. He and a friend were taking a boat across Cape Cod Bay, and he explained that they were encountering strong headwinds and high waves that were threatening to swamp the boat. Then my son’s phone cut out and we couldn’t reconnect.
As I reached out to God in prayer, the initial feeling of utter helplessness was almost immediately replaced with a quiet assurance. I held on to the spiritual fact that my son and his friend truly dwelled in infinite Life, and could never be separated from this divine presence. God is always with us, always protecting us, because that’s what our heavenly Father does. I felt this reassurance deep in my heart, and trusted it.
Several hours later my son was able to call again. He thanked me for the prayers, and told me they’d been able to get the boat turned around and safely back to land. It was so gratifying to watch the power of infinite Spirit bring them safely through.
And fatherhood isn’t a role that stopped when my sons left home and started families of their own. It’s a role that has actually grown in significance to me as the years have gone by.
In fact, I’ve realized, it’s not even restricted to one’s own children. The more I’ve sought to understand God as my Father, I’ve come to realize God is the truest Father of us all. We can express divinely inspired fathering qualities toward virtually anyone in our path. The more I’ve studied and practiced Christian Science, the more I’ve discovered the capacity to express the nurturing care, intuitive wisdom, and understanding love that promote the very best in others. It’s led to relationships with people who have become like sons and daughters to me.
Much more could be shared about what it means to have gained a more spiritual sense of God’s fatherhood and its power to touch virtually every corner of our lives. As we look to God’s parenting – teaching us, nurturing us, comforting us, and in every sense of the word loving us – we realize more deeply what it truly means to be a father.
Looking for more timely inspiration like this? Explore other recent content from the Monitor's daily Christian Science Perspective column.