A Short & Personal Parable*
There was a boy who loved his father. He loved him so much and wanted to be just like him. Not only was the father all powerful, all wise, and all good, at least in the eyes of the boy, but the father always told the son what to do and the best decisions to make. The boy had a wonderful childhood. Anytime he came to a tough decision he simply ran to his father, who hugged him tightly, and told him exactly which road to take. The boy was so comforted knowing that it was not his decision but his father’s. He was glad to give up the responsibility for his life, placing it in the hands of someone who knew so much better. When the boy was a man, his father became ill. And fear struck. I am lost without my father. I cannot make a single decision without his clear direction. And in that moment came the most devastating revelation: he was nothing like the father. He was neither wise, nor good, nor powerful. The father recovered, but the son never did.
There was another boy who loved his father. He loved him so much and wanted to be just like him. The father was all powerful, all wise, and all good, at least in the eyes of the boy, but it was often frustrating to be the son. It was difficult to understand why his father acted in the ways that he did. When the son would ask (I admit, sometimes he demanded) for the best path to take, the father would most often shrug his shoulders and simply say “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” while pointing to a particular book on the shelf that the father had written many years before. It was an autobiography of the tallest order.
Time and time again the boy would come to him with a decision to make, a crossroads in life and the father would simply say “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” How arrogant. How frustrating. This was such a different world than the world in the book. “I don’t want to know how my father acted, so long ago. I want to know right now what I should do,” the boy would often say.
After reading the letter over and over again, searching for the answer to the question that lay before him, the son would slam it shut in disgust and say, “I guess I will just have to make my own decision.” And so he did.
When the boy was a man, his father became ill. And he asked his father, “Before you die, I need to know one thing. Why did you never tell me what to do? Why did you never give me a clear answer to my questions? Why did you give me nothing when I most needed your direction?”
His father replied, “Any father who gives his son the answers robs him of the gift of the struggle. There is no one who becomes strong physically by having someone lift weights on his behalf. To desire to be like me without desiring to suffer is a contradiction. It cannot be done. Forcing you to take responsibility for your own life is the spiritual exercise required to be like me.”
The son thought, and said, “But why risk it? I could have made all the wrong decisions!”
The father chided the son, “Did you not read the book? Do you not remember who your father is? You have a father who will always be with you, even to the end of the age. The balance between Love and Power does not stop you from making mistakes, it redeems them.”
It was then that the son understood. And resentment melted away and was replaced by inestimable gratitude. And the father remained with the son, even to the end of the age.