I’ve been a father for almost five years, and it’s been one of the hardest experiences of my life and yet also the most joyous. There are those of you out there, I know, who can relate to such an experience whether you’re a father or not.
It seems appropriate to reflect a bit on Father’s Day since that happens to be today. I’m also interested in reflecting on the ways in which we are called to savor or contemplate experiences in our life. Our lives so often dictate that we live moment-to-moment without much time for pause, rest, reflection, and prayer. I often find it hard to stop and contemplate the every-day experiences of life. Do you?
On a recent Facebook post by one of our Oxford graduates now a senior on the Atlanta campus of Emory University, she reflected about one of her friends, another Oxford student, who earlier this month died suddenly. He was so young and the accident so tragic, and she as well as many others were shocked, saddened, and angered. She was full of questions but out of her questions she wrote this,
“I can’t speak for most of you but I have this sense of invincibility because we’re
young. But events like this prove that those senses are false. We have spent the last
three or more years preparing for the future, future that isn’t sure. I sometimes forget
to appreciate the now. What I’m saying is hug, appreciate, text and love the people
around you. We will not be here forever.”
I’m 40 and sometimes still feel invincible too, but less so than I did when I was 20. I also forget that the future – at least living this earthly life – isn’t sure. Perhaps the greatest lesson in her words, though, come at the end. Appreciating the now and wrapping our arms around each other no matter who we are, where we’ve been or come from, what we’ve done, or where we’re going is really hard. Most of us aren’t steeped in contemplative ways, and we have a lot of places to blame for that. That’s another article for another day.
On this Father’s Day, though, I’m hoping to live into my more contemplative side. Don’t get me wrong, my son will wake me up at 6 a.m., and we will be going the whole day. It will be wonderful and exhausting. As for the contemplative, I will approach the day with a gracious and reflective spirit – an orientation toward life that recognizes all of it as holy. This is a practice that requires daily work, carving out time for prayer and rest – the hardest things to come by in most of our lives, I know.
I’ll also give thanks for my father, step-father, and father-in-law as well as all the people in my life who have been fathers to me. I invite you to do the same, and I pray that there’s someone in your life who has been a good (though not perfect, I’m sure) father to you, biological or otherwise.
At the end of the day, we are asked to live life with some sense of reverence. Reverence for the holy that is all around us. Reverence for the ways in which God’s spirit flows through our lives and engages us most visibly in the relationships we share with other people. Sometimes those people are our fathers and father-figures in our lives. Sometimes, if we’re open to it, complete strangers are the holy ones in our midst.
As our wise student reminded me, we will not be here forever. Let’s appreciate this moment and this day. Happy Father’s Day.
The Rev. Dr. Lyn Pace is the college chaplain at Oxford College of Emory University and the father of Sam. Along with Sam’s mom, Ami, they live in Oxford, Georgia.