Sunday, March 27, 2016

asking my father

Growing up, Saturday nights were for going out to dinner. When I heard my father’s footsteps come down the stairs, his boots tapping against the old worn wood, and when I heard the jingle of the keys as he picked them off the dining room table, I knew it was time to go. My sisters and I rushed to put our shoes on and zip up our coats. The three of us scooted into the back seat of the car, digging for seatbelts. I might have brought a book along to read, or I might have my walkman along to listen to music as I stared out the window, guessing by the roads my father took where we might be going.

There was no discussion, and I never asked, even though every time I had an idea in my mind, a place I’d wish we’d end up. I think I understand now why my father might have kept the decision to himself – it was easier that way, and better to not have to face the shame of not being able to meet the unpredictable desires of a hungry family. I looked forward to those Saturday night dinners, but secretly resented feeling like I had no say. And I, afraid of my hunger, came home from those dinners having eaten more than my fill.

I love my father, but sometimes he felt so unapproachable to me.

*        *       *

Now, I am learning to ask.

Last week, I left my friend’s house near Malibu and headed through the canyon to the beach. The road cut through the mountains flowered with yellow wild things. Close to my destination, I needed a bathroom and wanted coffee, and told Him so. Just then, a sign for Starbucks. Once I parked, I walked along the sidewalk and instead of Starbucks, found an independent coffee shop attached to a small bookstore. How well He knows me, I thought. How kind. The rest of the drive took me toward an overlook, where I parked and found a path that led down to a beach dotted with people and water calmly lapping up against the sand. A whale showed its back to us just a short distance from land. The sun was warm. I sat, read, prayed. I thanked Him (my Father) for listening to me in the car, and heard Him say that He is always listening.

The afternoon trip was more than I’d asked for.

*        *        *

…which one of you, if his daughter asks him for bread, will give her a stone? Or if she asks for a fish, will give her a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

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