A Father’s Touch
He had been complaining of nausea all morning and the night before, but without any incident. But soon after the family had settled in for worship he seemed be in distress so I asked him if he needed to head for the restroom. Bravely, he said, no. I put my hand on his back to let him know that I was aware of his discomfort and if he changed his mind I was ready to help.
The church that we were visiting that day was on our route home from vacation and was known for great doctrine and beautiful tradition. The sanctuary was magnificent, arched, columned, stained glass and high ceiling. Central, was the pulpit, which rose like a tower to elevate the supremacy of the preached word. The sound from the pipe organ confirmed and conveyed the beauty and importance that song has in the worship of our Lord. I was glad of heart to sit with my family and celebrate covenant renewal in such a place, even though my attention was compromised by my 12 year old son as he struggled to man-up when he really didn’t need to. Really, all he had to do was say the word and I would have taken him outside. We could wait in the van for the others until church let out. But he stayed, so we stayed.
As we listened to the minister’s sermon, I raked my fingers through the back of his hair and soon thought about how I never had the same experience with my father. Suddenly I was seriously conscious of what my hand was doing, stroking his hair and lightly rubbing his shoulders when he was able to sit up; drawing small circles on his back when he bent over. I wanted him to know that I was there—I was there for him like my dad wasn’t for me.
Don’t read too much into that. I loved my dad and he loved me in his own way. He was wired differently and that I say to defend him. I know enough about his life and his past to realize that he probably gave me more than he had to give.
How appropriate that all of this was taking place in my heavenly Father’s house. I have no love of my own to give. I love this son of mine (and my other sons and daughters) because I am loved by God. He loves me—I love Him—I love my children by Him and because of Him.
Being there for my children is only a reflection of the Lord being there for me. Without God I only would love myself.
So I make sure that this son of mine and my other sons and my daughters know that I am always there for them. Not out of some reaction to my own childhood deficit, for that type of well is always dry and the motive isn’t so much to give but to desperately receive. That’s why love is so important and necessary for our being. All of our wells are dry but by the Spirit of God, we can be all springs and overflowing.
He almost made it through the service. When we rose to sing the recessional, he started shaking and said that he needed to go. He only just made it out of the pew and vomited in the aisle.
I crouched by him as his sickness defeated his will and like the sincerest confessor, he spilled his guts. As the congregation sang on we knelt together and fellowshipped in each other’s suffering: he, because of illness and I, because of empathy.
Bile, mixed with food particles, splattered making a putrid smelly puddle all over that beautiful tile floor. Thankfully, we were sitting over to one side of the sanctuary so most of the congregation was spared a scene that those sitting next to us are likely never to forget. “Remember that Sunday when a visiting family’s kid threw-up all over the right side of the church?”
When and if they retell that story, I hope that they don’t forget the part about the kid’s dad. About how that he wasn’t embarrassed and how he was there for his son during the whole ordeal. About how he was so close that his shoes were also splashed and that through his entire son’s discomfort he stayed with him, with his hand on his shoulder.