Today, the world I live in is filled with snow, and while some have wondered about my safety, I am perfectly fine. I have power, my internet is a little fickle, but my personal self is safe and protected from the cold. But the snow haunts and harms me in another way, as it reminds me of my father. It’s a bittersweet feeling, knowing that there is a steep hole in my heart where the encouragement of my father and the words of wisdom will never ring again. They can echo from those already spoken, but the chimes in there shall never be rung again.
In light of that emptiness, that loneliness within a world of friendly faces, handshakes, and smiles, I find myself constantly thinking but stumbling, and until last night, I was mostly unable to begin to move my mind. But for the first time since that December day, my mind is moving again. So now I feel compelled by God and the echoes of my father to bother your hearts with the rings of him one last time. I don’t know if you care or if you will listen, but my father believed in several key values, and I feel more than simply it necessary to enlighten you to the way that man, the best man possible he could be, saw the world and lived his life. Bearing all these things in mind, you must know that he found joy and contentment in his life, and that even in his final echoes of his own mind, he surely must have thought, “this was the best life I could live, and I am proud to have been given it.”
With the approach of Winter War, a gaming convention my father would have been running for 23 years this year, a theme of inevitable struggle and war, but peace in thick of battle will be the foundation for most of this writing. Whether it brings you peace of mind or not, knowledge is power, and power is not always helpful.
Puritanical Personal Faith versus Social Tolerance
My father (and I) are both religiously-observant men. My father inspired a unique love of God in me, and one that has held even in spite of the worst moments in my life, and for him, God always found a way into his heart, no matter how hard he would try to make it. In the latter years of his life, God so was within him that my father could not find and linger in rage unless it was divinely inspired. To his wife, to his son, to strangers, and to friends, my father was not one who held his anger long.
There were moments in my teen years when my father’s calmness in the world was questioned as a weakness in faith, and it offended my father. Tolerance to the ways of the world, and recognition that you cannot impose belief on a mind unwilling or a heart unyielding was key to my father. You made converts, children of God, not by bribing, cajoling, threatening, or intimidating belief into people. You LIVED God to them, loving them, helping them through terror and heartache, you be a shoulder to aid the push against the plow, you be a friend in the darkest hour.
But do not mistake that my father’s love was one of weak heart or weak faith. My father’s eyes brimmed greatly with the fire of his GOD and he passed that unto me. When he would speak of God, would speak of God’s influence on his life, and the efforts God made to keep him alive, you could see the spirit of God within my dad. My father had a very rigid faith, he held many ideas and would rarely concede the ground of his faith. He hated ignorance to God’s word and would challenge any believer or non-believer should they question his God or his faith. When I was younger, and a fierce firebrand, some wondered where I got the fire. The reality is that my father encouraged me to keep my eyes open, but to keep my heart focused on God. That has let me be able to friend and welcome with friendship and love other people of faith, other people who have no faith, and people who don’t understand faith.
I talk of Personal Puritanical Belief because Dad would not impose his beliefs on others, but should the fire come down, and there were those in our society calling for the closing of churches, synagogues, or mosques; MY FATHER WOULD BE STANDING WITH HIS FELLOW CHRISTIANS, THE JEWS, or the MUSLIMS. If there was an attempt to make children pray in school without parental consent, MY FATHER WOULD STAND WITH THE ATHEIST MOTHER DEMANDING THE SCHOOL NOT IMPOSE BELIEFS, because only love of God and love to our fellow man can change a heart, not fear or tyranny.
WHY WAS MY FATHER THIS WAY? Because you do not win those to the kingdom of Heaven by force of sword or deed, you win them to the Kingdom by an open embrace, a gentle heart, and a listening mind. If you close your heart, eyes, or mind to the world around you, of course it can appear that all hope is lost. It can appear as if we are losing, but the reality is that if we WERE actually fighting the way GOD wants us to, we wouldn’t be ‘losing’, we wouldn’t be cutting off from the world, hiding in our buildings and homes away from its wickedness. RATHER THAN BE JONAHS standing on our hilltops, in the shade of God condemning and damning those below us, we should BE LIKE JESUS, eating at the homes of Greedy Tax Collectors, walking and talking in equality with our fellow man, despite belief, race, blood, or class, holding to bear the deeds of those of the hierarchy (US, as in the MODERN CHURCH) for holding our faith against those not in the hierarchy (the lost and uneducated on scripture). We should rebuke, educate, and scold our fellow brethren in Christ when they stumble, but we should not hold those without God in their heart to the same level we hold each other. We in Christ have chosen this lot, we should accept it willingly, but we cannot force it on others. Christ did not force the priests of the Pharisees, the Centurion, the widow, or the Samaritan woman to his beliefs, but when prodded for his beliefs, he stood defiantly on them, shouting from his soul what he believed and how he saw the world.
Much like Christ, my father did the same. From the pit of his soul, no one can and should ever wonder the faith my father. It was a burning torch, a burning heart seeking God and finding solace in HIM. My father was confident in his faith, so much so that in his worst moments, he never let go of his GOD.
Inner Thought Reflection
Recently, while I don’t think people have questioned the values of my father, I find myself wondering if people really understood my father. We did not have a normal father-son relationship with reverence and respect, rather Dad raised me to seek knowledge and become his equal. He often turned to me in youth, and said, “I cannot wait for when you become an adult and the conversations we can have from your point of view.” As a kid that ached at me, but as an adult, I find myself wishing I could have but one more conversation with the font of wisdom and faith my father was. He was not a weak man, and he was a man with a faith convincingly outside of human instinct, but completely rational given his experiences. It was not a faith of gaps and misunderstandings, it was a faith of research, of knowledge, and of mystery.
Sometimes, we can wonder why men like my father disappear before they should, “why so young” we might think. But in the case of my father, his life was a ticking time-bomb. Between the heart scare, his life of obesity, the strokes, and stress his years of high blood pressure put on him, the fact that he lived so long was a miracle. EVERYDAY was a blessing from God to my father, and EVERYDAY he lived next to his wife Susan, and talked to his son Michael, my father saw his life, and knew that it was good. When my dad was in a frightening car accident when I was in middle school, the police officer even admitted dad shouldn’t have survived or walked away. When dad got to the hospital because of the heart scare, they clocked his blood pressure at stroke/heart-attack range. When dad suffered the stroke, they warned us that he could have more in the future because it made the signs and damage of his previous conditions more obvious. Of course I wish I had more time, but the fact that DAD got to see me graduate from the Institute of World Politics and that he knew I was on television to talk politics was joyous to him. I wish he got to see my first time on TV talking politics, but that was not meant to be. Dad’s body destroyed itself, and robbed him of his life. The time-bomb that took him was not the one we expected, but it happened nonetheless. There are plenty of moments where I could wish for God to turn back the time, or be angry at God. But like my father many times in his own life, I cannot be angry at God. God has been good to me, he has spared me of tragedy and death in my own life at various points. God has been gracious and merciful to me.
Anger at God I cannot have, Anger at life or my father I cannot have, it is impossible. The rage I have felt was knowing that God had taken yet another wise man from my ears, he had called to rest another man filled with the fire of Heaven and faith. Another man had been given his fair wages, and sent into recreation. That anger is not one that can be made graceful or reduced, it is the anger of losing knowledge that could help our fellow humans and communities. So, in my anger to say, I write of my father because my father would not and cannot write of himself. He was a powerful man in spirit, a powerful father in his heart, and a powerful sage in his mind, he body was devoted to bearing the burden of his family and of his God. Surely such a life can be missed, but more surely such a life should be mimicked and chased, rather than wept for and embittered against. Do we not all run the race of life, seeking to find this joy, and remaining in it until the very end?