I once saw a list of things Dad’s should teach their sons. How to balance a checking account, how to ask a girl out, how to change a tire, and so on. But as I think about my failure to teach my son these skills, I realize how much nurturing help I’ve had.
Saturday I was playing golf with a group of Dads who have met annually since October 4, 1997, when we prayed prostrate under the shadow of the Washington Monument at a Promise Keepers rally along with half a million other men gathered near the Capitol of our country.
We prayed for our children, those born and unborn, and prayed for fatherly perseverance. We’ve met every autumn since 1997, except the year of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. We eat, laugh, and play, like when we were boys. We pray for our families, reminding ourselves of the stone of remembrance we placed in our hearts near the Washington Monument that year. And just like many of our parents reminded us before we walked out the door on a Friday night, we remember who we are and whose we are, children of a just and loving Father God.
So on Saturday afternoon, I stood on the ridge of the little golf course at our home and looked east to the sun-splashed pond and watched the product of our 1997 prayers, the sons of our autumn promise. Brandon and four buddies from OU wake-boarded along the cat tails lining the banks and my nephew Jacob swam across the pond solo and nephews Easton and Tyler swam and kayaked, boys being boys, giddy and bullet proof, just like our generation played midnight frisbee in our underwear and ski jumped over firewood ramps packed with snow and clothed the Community Center statue with a toga.
It’s fun to see life come full circle and yet our sons are not the same. They are unique, they have an identity all their own. Their identity is more spiritual and less religious, more egalitarian and less biased, immersed with personal devices held in the palm of their hands accessing more information than all the libraries of the world contained when we were their age.
We sat in a circle around the campfire Saturday night looking at the stars through the canopy of the hackberry tree and we talked about how this group of Dads came to meet again and again each Autumn. And my brother Greg, challenged us with questions about belief and identity.
Who are you? Do you judge your worth by the grades you make and the degrees you have earned? Are you eternal…or just a mist? Are you a child of God, a citizen of Heaven?
I grew up in a church that sang about heaven, a cappella, and when we sang, Mansions Just Over the Hilltop, the words that resonated were not the words about streets of gold, but rather the line about the prophet whose pillow was a stone. I understood that prophet, the one with no permanent dwelling, tempted, tormented and tested, wandering about with a crick in his neck from sleeping with his head on a rock. And sometimes, being a dad is a pain in the neck. But I’m always looking for echoes of better days, glimpses, moments, when I peer into the future and see men who were once boys.
I’ve always thought of Heaven in bright colors. My theory about Heaven as a youngster included an inexhaustible bowl of peanut M&M’s flowing eternally like a rainbow dotted stream tumbling down a mountain. It wasn’t the stuff of Augustine, but it gave a creative flourish to my spare understanding of reward and punishment, and colored my black and white Bible in brilliant Technicolor.
Walking through the gates of Heaven would be like the moment in The Wizard of Oz when the film transitions to color, as a sepia-toned Dorothy opens the door of a Kansas farmhouse and the vibrant world of Oz explodes in lush and gorgeous Technicolor, revealing Dorothy wearing a bright blue gingham dress as she steps over the threshold in a moment of true awe, no longer constrained by black and white.
Once in a blue moon, we catch a glimpse of the Technicolor scene on the other side of the door. Saturday, with golf clubs held in our hands like the staffs of Moses and Aaron, we gazed down from our golf game on the hill and admired our sons playing in the cat tails, riding the waves on a brilliant Technicolor autumn day, and we remembered the smell of the earth and grass under the shadow of a towering obelisk seventeen years ago. Thank you Lord for answering our prayers.