Romans 5: 3-5
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
In the film, Field of Dreams, ball player Ray Kinsella recalls his own father, “He was old and broken when I was born, I never knew him as a vibrant man with a dream” I related to Ray’s description of his relationship with his father, I shared a similar relationship with my father. He passed, suddenly and tragically, one month before my 19th birthday leaving me to figure out a way to live a life that was not filled with anger and bitterness and estrangement. I entered my twenties in no hurry to take on the weight of responsibilities but I was hungry and open to learn wisdom. I wanted to know the joy and goodness of life and not grow old in life bearing only regrets and anger.
Soon after my father’s death, I experienced a religious conversion that would change the direction and tone of my life. I became a student of scripture in the midst of being a student at community college. I was hungry for wisdom and direction and spiritual belonging. I was hungry for fatherly advice and guidance.
Scriptures, like was heard from St. Paul this morning, gave me direction in a time of life I needed it. I would reflect upon the sufferings my family experienced and I would read “…suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts…” It is true, at the beginning of my adulthood I knew God’s love, like a father. I have always known God’s love, like a father, maybe more keenly because of my own father’s anger and absence.
Like the father in the film “Field of Dreams,” in his day my own father was an impressive athlete and many other gifts and abilities. My Uncle, my mother’s brother, once told me, how my father could enter a room and command every one’s attention, in a good way. I never knew that man, only the one whose suffering did not produce patience, character, or hope – instead addiction, anger, and isolation.
How can we turn our ashes into praise? How can our suffering produce hope? It is as Paul states, the love of God poured deep into our hearts. That love that was there when the earth was just formed. “That love that was there, beside God, like a master worker;rejoicing in the inhabited world and delighting in the human race.” That is the deep presence I knew as a young man, and one I still feel today, the love, the wisdom, the belonging that is here. A delight in the human race, in spite of all our folly and brokenness, the author of all still beholds us as a father does his children, as mother nurses her young, the love of God is poured into our hearts.
In the movie, Ray is able to make his father’s unfulfilled dreams come true. He builds a baseball park where early twentieth century baseball greats come and play ball. His father comes back as a catcher to play with the greats. I suppose my own life has lived in the wake of my father’s pain, and equally it has been lived as a salve for his suffering. Because nothing mends and or fills a father’s heart then to see his own son find his way and his joy in life.
And is that not the same and even more, as we contemplate the great love of God in this world. Like a father’s heart, filled with joy, as each and any of us find our own bliss and path in life, and live filled with the love and wisdom and belonging of God, our Father who art in heaven.