Father’s Day was just a week ago and all week long I’ve been thinking about my dad and dad’s in general. I know. I’m behind. I should have been thinking about this the week before Father’s Day, but Ce la vie.
Anyway…back to my point.
I’ve been thinking about fathers and the impact they have on our lives. For me, as I’ve said in previous blogs, I am a daddy’s girl. While I didn’t live with my dad for a good part of my childhood, he has always had this almost superhero status in my eyes. Sure, some of that may have been the fact that he was well over 6′ tall and filled doorways, but even now that he’s 84 and his stature has decreased with time and gravity, he still has the same general status in my mind.
It’s not that all of my memories about my dad are good ones, but despite the ups and downs of our relationship I always felt that he had the ability to help me find my way through challenging situations.
These situations, of course, have looked significantly throughout the years. When I was little, that meant finding his finger to help me cross the road or climb the curb or using his feet to guide me as we danced at his wedding to my stepmom. As a teenager, that meant helping me to figure out that the retread tire I was driving on was losing its rubber or opening his wallet to help me go to the movies or put gas in my car. As an adult, this often has come by way of insight and wisdom gleaned from his years of success.
As I think about these memories with my dad, they all include the same thing – me reaching my hand out – physically or metaphorically – to receive help in one way or another. Maybe my request for help was just through words, but the end result is the same – I reach out and there is help provided.
But there’s a catch.
The help I received was not always what I wanted it to be, but rather, what was in my best interests as far as my dad was able to determine for me at that time.
My relationship with my Heavenly Father is the same. Regardless of my need or how I express that need, when I reach my hands out He places what I need. Again, what is placed in my hands is not always what I want it to be, but it is what I most need it to be. More importantly, unlike my earthly father, God can see the entirety of my existence here and knows fully what is in my best interest not just for now, but farther into the future than I could ever imagine.
During the homily at my church last week, this particular point was addressed clearly and poignantly.
As an Episcopalian, I go to the alter every week to receive communion. I kneel and extend my empty hands to the priest for a small wafer and wine meant to remind me of the sacrifice that God has made for me in the gift of His Son. Now, for those of you who have never had a communion wafer and wine, let me assure you the wafer is no a sugar cookie and the wine is most definitely not going to be found on the top of any wine connoisseurs list of excellence. But, of course, this is not their purpose.
When I am given the wafer and wine, I am reminded of the gift I have been given through my salvation; I am reminded of the sacrifice that Jesus made for me so I can have the opportunity to learn to love and to serve. These are the things that I need.
Furthermore, just like when I extended my hand to my dad asking for gas money or keys to the car, when I go to the alter to receive communion every week, I must extend my empty hands to receive the gifts being presented.
Why is it important that my hands are empty?
First, I have nothing to offer that is sufficient to receive what God has to give me.- the gift of love, mercy, and grace. No money, no personal sacrifice, nothing can pay for these things.
Second, my hands empty because that is the only way I can truly receive what is placed there. If I came to the alter with my hands full of other things, I couldn’t take what was being offered to me. It’s like having my arms full of grocery bags and needing to use my house key to open the door. Whatever I have in my hands has to be put down so do can accomplish what needs to be done.
Every time each one of us comes to our Heavenly Father, we must remember to empty our hands of all the stuff that is so often there – our worries, our anger, our sadness, our disappointment, and most importantly, our expectations.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t we supposed to go to God with the expectation that He is going to provide for us?
But the only expectation that we should carry in our hearts when approach Him is that He will provide what we need to accomplish His will for us. As I’ve said before, God is not a genie in a bottle granting our every wish. Additionally, God is not the reflection of some people’s earthly fathers. He is not abusive, He is not distant, and most importantly, He is not absent. He never has been and he never will be.
We must empty our hearts and minds of the expectations of what will be given to us based on our perception of reality. The solution to our current need or want is often not at all what we would imagine for ourselves – good or bad.
What God gives us will always be greater than our greater hope and desire. All we need to do is reach out our hand and wait.