“When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1).
In my sermon today I suggested that there is between a father and his children, a bonding of soul similar to the bonding of soul between Jonathan and David. I remember the moment each of my three children were born and holding them in my hands for the first time. How can a father look into the eyes of his children and not see there a reflection of his own soul? If only we would look more often!
As a father, I know that I can’t protect my children from the difficulties and tragedies that life presents. If I could, it would be tempting. Deep in our hearts we would like to build a protective bubble around our children; after all when our children hurt, we hurt, when someone abuses our children it is you and I who get angry. When our children are confronting a crisis, we are the ones who toss and turn in our beds with sleeplessness. Our souls have bonded with their souls. But the reality is that if we could protect our children from any and very hurt they would never grow into responsible, differentiated, and mature adults in this life. Life is difficult, and the sooner we allow our children to discover this in their own experience, the better off they will be. The most important thing is to stay connected to them, especially when they are hurting or confused, to listen to them, and to be more of a light for them than a judge.
Many of you know that my own father is very weak and fighting an aggressive form of leukemia. I know eventually there will be an “end and a departing” and that every conversation now is one to treasure. But can I just say that his personal example of facing the difficulties and tragedies of life with faith and courage are among the most important things that he has taught me? And I think this is the greatest gift that a father can pass on to his children–this capacity to trust even in the most difficult circumstances of our lives, that we are “ever walking in God’s sight.” There is a bonding of the soul that happens with our fathers, especially when we know they truly believe in us—it just goes that deep. And by so doing, they show us far more about the art of living this human journey than they could possibly imagine or even dare to take credit for.
The hard truth is that in a world that is still unfolding, there are no guarantees that love will be without pain, even tragedy. We may yearn for but never know the love and guidance of a committed father or a committed mother and we may not know the full love and maturity of a child with whom our own souls have bonded. We may carry a great sadness in our lives due to the vulnerability that is part of all human relationships. I believe in the fullness of time such sadness will be redeemed. Until that day, I want to cherish the bonds of heart and soul that do exist between fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, friends and companions. Let us never take them for granted, nor allow too much time to pass before we speak and show our love as opportunities arise.
My sermon included a tender story my brother Rob posted on his blog about a father and son who rediscover the bond between their souls by observing a little sparrow. Here’s a link to the story as it is poignantly portrayed in a short Greek film entitled, “What’s That?” It’s a gem.