Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Fishing Trip

I remember one time when I was little that my Dad took my brother and me fishing. He drove us down this old abandoned looking road to a boat ramp that was no longer in use, parked the car, and we all got out. I remember looking out at the lake and thinking about how big it looked. It seemed to sprawl out forever, so blue and pretty. It was so beautiful. And it was such a wonderful day. I remember just being so excited about getting to spend time with my Dad like that. There was a small cove just to the right of the ramp and that's where Dad took us. There was a trail there that led out to this little cutout in the hillside, and there was a ledge, or what I guess you could call a jump off point just a few feet above the water. I remember us all three sitting there on the bank with our legs hanging over the side. I'm sure we looked like something from out of a Norman Rockwell painting the way we were sitting there, fishing like that. I remember after a few minutes of sitting there, my brother started to get fidgety. He wasn't very old at the time. I'm not even sure if he was five years old. But I remember he started moving around more than my Dad was comfortable with. None of us could swim at the time and I'm sure the idea of my brother falling off and going into the water was beginning to worry my Dad. I remember him telling my brother he had to sit still, and yet, my brother just kept playing around and scooting forward really close to the edge. Finally, Dad told him again if he didn't stop we were going to quit fishing and go home. At that, my brother settled down a bit.

For a few minutes, everything seemed fine, but then a group of teenagers came along, parked at the ramp, and began swimming at the mouth of the cove. When my brother saw them swimming and having fun, he immediately decided he'd have some fun as well. He started to pitch forward to go into the water. Luckily, Dad reached out for him just in time to keep him from falling. It was one of those moments where I think we were all scared half to death. Dad pulled my brother back and swatted him on the backside a few times for not listening to him and scaring him like that. Needless to say, that was the end of our fishing. Dad quickly got us back to the car and we were headed home. What had been a good day out, a nice little father and sons trip, had turned into an unfortunate disaster. Funny as it may sound, that's one of my favorite childhood memories. I learned something from it. But also, Dad was spending time with me. And any of those times whether they turned out good or bad, were good times for me. So much of the time he wouldn't spend any time with me at all, so, when he did, it meant something. I remember those times.

I think about God. He tells us not to do things, and he tells us that because He knows what's best for us. He knows we'll get hurt or that we'll hurt others if we do those things. I look at how my brother wouldn't listen to my Dad while on that fishing trip, and I think about how my brother could have slid off and drowned. But Dad caught him. I see the similarity between that story and how God is with all of us. He tells us not to do things, we do them anyway, but even still, he always reaches out to save us if we just let Him. Most of us actually do fall in the water a great deal of the time. Some of us kick our feet and wave our arms, struggling a great long time before reaching for His hand. And some of us never reach for it. We either don't see the hand because we're too busy kicking and screaming about in the water, we ignore it thinking we can save ourselves, or we had just prefer to stay in the water and drown.

I've held it against my Dad for a long time now because he didn't spend more time with me when I was younger. I hold it against him now sometimes because he still won't spend much time with me. But I love him, and I know he loves me. He's cared an awful lot for me over the years. He helped teach me right from wrong, taught me about God, clothed me, sheltered me, fed me, encouraged me, and stuck by me. I honestly was surprised by the way my Dad reacted when I told him I struggle with homosexuality. I could tell he was hurt by it, but I think he was mostly hurt because I was hurt. He just kept asking me, “Why didn't you ever tell me?” And he kept telling me he loved me. I think it really bothered him that I'd spent all those years hiding such a huge painful part of my life and going through all of that alone. When we finished talking about things, I made one request to him, and that was for him and Mom to please not treat me differently because of this. And so far, Dad and Mom both have been really great not to treat me differently than they did before. I don't think I could bare it if they did.

But I see how much my Dad really does love me. I've struggled for so long not knowing if he really loved me or not. I think back to all those times when he wouldn't have anything to do with me, when he'd ignore me, or times when he'd punished me more than I feel like I deserved, sometimes just because he felt like it, I think. By no means do I claim to have been the best-behaved child, I know I deserved most of the punishments I got, but there were times when I really do feel like I got a lot more than I deserved in the form of punishment. There was one time I'd got a deep cut on the back of my right thigh. I'd cut myself on a broken piece of glass, and probably should have had stitches for it, but didn't. A few days later Dad got mad at me about playing too loudly in the backyard. I honestly don't remember being very loud at all. But I remember he called me into the house, took his belt off, and whipped me, taking the belt across the back of my legs a few times and across that cut. Well... that opened up the wound, and when he was done whipping me I had blood running down my leg. My entire leg swelled up after that and it took a long time for that wound to heal as it should have. It's hard for me to overlook something like that. Thing is, I know my Dad isn't perfect. All parents make mistakes. All parents do things they wish they hadn't. They're only human, after all. All people do things when they're angry, tired, frustrated, or whatever else like that that they know afterwards they shouldn't have done. I don't have a doubt in my mind that my Dad did his best with me. And I'm sure that whatever hurts he may have caused me, none of them were deliberate or intentional, or if they were, I'm sure he wishes he hadn't caused them.

A lot of times, I look to God and see Him, in a way, like my Dad. But more than that, I see Him as how I wish my Dad really were. I think of all the things I think would make a perfect Dad and I see God. He loves me, cares for me, encourages me, is consistent, wants to spend time with me, blesses me richly in so many ways, teaches me right from wrong, helps me avoid trouble, helps me when I get into trouble, and always reaches His hand out to pull me back to Him. And He forgives me when I do wrong. In a way, I think one of the reasons it's been so hard for me to fully trust God is because I do relate Him in a lot of ways to my Dad. It was hard for me to trust my Dad when I was little. I never knew when it was okay to have fun around him or when to be quiet and not disturb him. But I never knew how he felt about me either. Sometimes he'd make it out like I was the most important thing in the world to him, and other times, it was as if I didn't even exist. He'd be one-way one minute, and completely different the next. I never knew how to take him.

Lately, I have been trying to separate my earthly father from my heavenly father. I think I've always known in my mind that the two are different, but maybe in my heart I've wanted to see them as one in the same. Maybe that's mostly because I've wished my father were better than he is. Maybe I've wanted him to be more Godlike in the way that he relates to me. Thing is, I know he isn't perfect, and I can't hold that against him. I'm not perfect myself. I know I've not always been the best son I could have been—neither to my earthly father or heavenly father. Looking back, I know I've done a lot in my life I never should have done, a lot that I knew better than to do. I know there have been a lot of times when I have been nothing less than a little hellion. But I know I don't have to be perfect for either of them to love me. Learning that love has meant a world of difference to me. It's helped to heal so many old wounds of my past.

Sometimes I can have rather mixed feelings about my childhood. I try to think about all the good times, and to thank God for all of them. But for all of those bad times, I just keep trying to see what good may actually have come from them. If they in any way help, or have helped, to make me a better person, then I'm glad for them too. I think about that fishing trip with mixed feelings. It started off as such a good time, and yet it ended with my brother crying, my Dad mad, and me disappointed. But one lesson I learned from that experience was not to jump off cliffs. I remember Dad explaining that to my brother and me. He told us exactly what could have happened if my brother had fallen—that he could have got hurt and died. He also told us how upset and sad that would have made him, and how we needed to listen to him when he told us not to do something. To apply that knowledge to later events in my life... I wonder if that didn't save me at one point. That first year I was in college, the devil tried really hard to convince me that I should drive my car off a cliff in order to kill myself. I wonder if somewhere buried deep in the back of my mind, God was reminding me not to jump off cliffs. I wonder if maybe it was for that very purpose that that childhood event took place, and why I've remembered it all these years. Dad taught me something as a child, and God reminded me of that later on to stop me from hurting others and myself. I think about how close I really did come to killing myself. And I'd like to think that... no, I know it was only because of God's love for me that He stopped me from doing that. I know I didn't stop me. It was something else. I think it was God lying heavy upon me to turn that wheel, to not go off that cliff, because he knew I'd hurt myself and so many other people if I did. Maybe I was simply trusting God at that point in the same way I'd trusted my Dad all those years earlier. Maybe God was just simply asking me to trust Him, and to not go through with it.

I think about things like that and I can't help but feel that if I can just learn to apply that knowledge of God's love for me and to trust Him more completely in all aspects of my life, to know what's really best for me, I won't end up flailing about in the water quite so often or for quite so long. If I can learn to trust Him more fully, maybe I'll not end up in the water in the first place. Maybe I'll be content to sit by His side, with my fishing pole in hand, enjoying the beauty of the day and the time spent in His love.

1 comment:

RikFleming said...

Hello,

You are linked to my blog "Journal of a Battling Christian" which use to have the address of "gaychristianjournal" which has morphed since its inception. I finally figured out how to change the blog address so it is now the following:

http://rikfleming.blogspot.com/

You will need to change the link in your blog roll. Please forgive the inconvenience.

Rik Fleming