The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming…We get tired. We get confused. We need such escape as we can find. But there is a deeper need yet, I think, and that is the need—not all the time, surely, but from time to time—to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings and to where our journeys have brought us. The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived. Buechner
He is an echo, a reverberation, a sound in a distant land that makes it’s way to my ear every once and a while. He influences me and even defines how I treat neighbors in some fashion. He stands as a shadow on the plain that no one else can see. His soundless voice harks over my experience and his tender, handless touch gives me strength and pushes me forward. Yet, I do not know him. At least not first-handedly. He knows me. He held me. He comforted me. He probably more times than he wanted to, changed my diapers. He is my Dad, Karl DeArmond. And, I never knew him. I know him now through the stories of my family and echoes of his absence.
As I think through why I am the man I am today, I try to look back and see who’s charisma made a valuable impact upon my life. There is my mother, the hero of mine who worked three jobs and sacrificed for three young kids while bearing the weight of the death of her first husband. Some said she was a child herself when it all happened. Yet, she led with the broken-hearted boldness that kept a family alive. There is a youth minister who let a young, arrogant cynic sit in his office and ramble about all kinds of issues. There are friends who laughed, fished, and enjoyed Creation with me. There is a stepfather who provided for a family and still does so. Yet, there is one who’s absence defined my presence.
My father died of cancer when I was four years old. The only memory I have of him is at his funeral in the coffin. As I was in my grandma’s arms, I reached out and touched his cold hand. She said “Don’t do that.” If I try hard enough, I can still feel the cold, wax-like hand. One memory and a thousand stories from my mother. A tombstone…a sister with more memories…a brother with probably one less than I own. A grandma who lost a son and talked regularly about him. She’s gone now too.
As to be expected, his absence, though no fault of his own, created a hole. Yes, the others would go fishing with their Dads. They would learn about life and love from their strong, mighty father. They would be taught the birds and the bees…the rocks and the trees…and all other manners of Creation. I became a bastard of a child. I was good in front of my mother and teachers yet as much a hellion as any other sinner in front of friends. Angry while never voicing my frustration, I clung to my mother, my grandma, and others close within my life. But, it was not enough. I needed more. I still need more. My need grew until it was time to get it met. I am still in the process of getting that need met. Day in and day out, I am a needy son.
Seven years ago I gained a father. Through no doing of my own, I was allowed to say with deep sincerity and faith “My father who is in heaven…” The fatherhood of God…a precious and joy-creating reality within my own life. Christian doctrine belongs in your heart before it belongs in your mind. It is to be an experience and personal reality before it is a debate to be had with others. The care of the heavenly father is satisfying. It is strong. It is gentle. He loves us. He understands us. He forgives us. He provides for us. He disciplines us. He leads us. We worship Him. We glorify Him. We imitate Him. We obey Him. We reflect Him. My heart was made to have a hole in it that only God could fill. Martin Luther said:
“Abba” is only a little word, and yet contains everything. It is not the mouth but the heart’s affection which speaks like this. Even if I am oppressed with anguish and terror on every side, and seem to be forsaken and utterly cast away from your presence, yet am I Your child, and You are my Father. For Christ’s sake: I am loved because of the Beloved. So this little word, “Abba,” Father, deeply felt in the heart, surpasses all the eloquence of Demosthenes, Cicero, and the most eloquent speakers that ever lived. This matter is not expressed with words, but with groanings, and these groanings cannot be uttered with any words of eloquence, for no tongue can express them.
Embrace a Father who loves you and works diligently for your joy.