As might easily be imagined by anyone who looks closely at my blog , this is not one of my favorite weekends of the year. My father has been dead almost a decade, and it is still not easy to be bombarded with messages about taking my father out to dinner at some restaurant for a discount. I am aware that companies are not generally familiar with collecting enough specific data about would-be customers to realize that trying to sell Father’s Day specials to people without fathers is probably not a wise idea, since so many people would think to honor their father with food. At any rate, I realize the blast is not a personal slight, merely a contextual problem, and so I file away or delete the messages and try not think about it too much, a task that is far easier said than done, considering it is hard for me not to think of the subjects that bother and irritate me like sand in the the sensitive skin of an oyster that makes a pearl out of its fretting and irritation.
After services today I was talking to one of my close friends in the congregation and he mentioned that if I had been his son he would be very proud of me. Given that this particular friend is not someone I would consider particularly emotionally demonstrative, I took that as an extremely high compliment. Throughout my life I have had a deep and continual struggle with feeling loved. It is one thing to know intellectually that others care for you and love you and respect you, but to feel it is a matter of great importance, because we act on the love we feel, not the love that others have for us. This is true for others as well as ourselves, as others do not respond based on the love that we feel for them, but on the love they feel from us. Emblematic of the struggles I have felt in feeling love, especially from male authorities, is the way that as a college student in Los Angeles my older friends were able to recognize my father’s awkwardly and belatedly expressed love far better than me because they lacked my own awkwardness and deep wounds.
I often regret the fact that my father and I were never able to come to terms with each other, at least in this life. Although from the time he entered into my life when I was a child of eight years old to the time of his stroke, we talked almost every single week, and far more often on those times when I was able to visit Pennsylvania. Despite not being a particularly intellectual person, he took God’s ways seriously and was a person of great duty and someone who liked to read and better his own knowledge in areas of personal interest. And to be sure, in his own way he certainly loved my brother and I, even if we both probably hurt and confused him in our own ways. I know I often wonder if my extremely restrained and masked way of interacting with him, and the obvious emotional distance that was between us, ended up hurting him. Like many people, he tried to hide his own feelings under the iron sea, but had the same longings to be understood and loved and accepted as anyone else. Perhaps I am biased, but perhaps he wished for my forgiveness as well, even if he was perhaps too proud and too afraid to ask.
How does one show love and respect and honor towards those who have deeply hurt you? It is a hard road to navigate, expressing one’s concerns and one’s wounds in a way that provokes someone to repentance, if indeed they are godly, and yet remaining loving and considerate even if one has to do so from a distance so as to protect oneself from further wounds, until there has been a full restoration and reconciliation. How does one avoid bitterness, to know that justice will be done to those who are without mercy, and so remaining full of mercy as well, able to overlook slights and act kindly towards people who are not very kind towards us. This is not an easy thing to do, and in order to give this kind of love to others, we have to know that we are loved, and to feel that love. In a way, we love God through loving other people, but unless we feel loved by God we do not tend to have it within us to show love to other people. In time, one hopes that showing enough love for others will allow for that love to be recognized so that we in turn can feel loved by others. Is that not what we want from others, after all, no matter the difficulties we face through life as imperfect beings in a fallen world?
 See, for example: