“You just can’t force someone to learn about God,” I declared years ago on a balance beam outside of Holy Spirit Catholic Elementary School. My best friend feigned support, so I continued my rant as I stepped one foot firmly in front of me, “We’re only in third grade. They shouldn’t be testing us on religion anyway. It’s stupid. I’m quitting this school.”
Such declarations of independence were not foreign to me. While I was not a poorly- behaved child, I was far from submissive or mild mannered. In fact, some might say I was bull headed or slightly out of step with authority, and I’m quite certain I horrified my mother with the dingy blue jeans and green button-down shirt I insisted on wearing daily. So when I received my first C on a routine religion test, I did what I did best: revolt.
Strangely, though, once I actually got home that day, my revolutionary attitude disappeared and nothing short of shame set in. I knew my grade was due to an unwillingness to listen to my teacher and study, but more importantly, I knew I had an authority figure at home—my father—to answer to for it.
My father was not someone I generally feared, but we were cut from the same rough-around-the-edges cloth. He was part Italian, part Polish, sometimes quick-tempered, and most of all devoutly Catholic. I therefore convinced myself getting a C on a religion test would evoke the worst of reactions from him; therefore, by the time he returned from work, I had retreated to a closet in sobs and convinced myself I was done for.
My father’s reaction to the grade surprised me, however. Instead of losing his temper or shaming me further, he picked me up, held me tight, and said gently, “You’re being too hard on yourself. Next time, you’ll study.” He then shared a few stories of his own struggles in school, told me I was “no dummy,” and left me with a kiss on the forehead.
Ironically, it was through his reaction that day, the day when I had just declared that no one could teach me about God, that I got the most demonstrable lesson on God’s love.
My father’s response could have justifiably been harsher. As the head of our household, he could have scorned me, sentenced me to time alone in my room, or taken away all my privileges. In a different scenario or on a different day, that might have actually been the appropriate reaction.
But because my Dad and I were more alike than not, he knew me in a way that no one else did and he understood exactly where I was at when he found me in the closet. I had been rebellious and I had failed to obey my teachers, but I was also remorseful and wanting to remedy my errors. And that fatherly understanding allowed him to exercise his authority to draw me in closer to, not farther away from, him and God.
Yes, God used my father that day to teach me a lesson, and it was not a lesson about toning down my behavior or studying more. (Those would come later.) It was a lesson about trusting a good earthly father who knows his child better than any psychologist or self-help book ever could. It was a lesson about a heavenly Father so full of mercy that He would gently meet His spunky rugrat wherever she was and gently guide her in the right direction (so much so that one day she would come to even cherish the Catholic schools and the religion she once revolted against). It was a lesson about the mysterious power of fatherly love.
I am eternally grateful for having the kind of father who could partake in these kinds of lessons throughout my life, and I know I am not alone. Therefore, this Father’s Day let us celebrate all those times in our lives where God has shown us that fathers really do know best.
Copyright © 2013, Krissie Allen