“I tried hard to have a father, but instead I had a Dad.” Nirvana, Serve the Servants
One of my most ridiculous memories from childhood is, after a big argument with my parents, I stormed up to my room. I cranked up my Dad’s old boom box he let me use, with the CD he gave me money for, in the room he never made me clean, and blasted the second verse of Nirvana’s ‘Serve the Servants’ where Kurt Cobain yells “I Tried hard to have a father but instead I had a Dad.”
I sure showed him.
Fortunately my dad and I were able to repair our relationship (or at least that little spat) in short order, but that memory came to mind recently because I was reminded again that I am ‘A Father+ and a Dad’ and that the parent role should always come first.
You see last week was busier than usual, and after spending the entire day working at Festival on the Hill I still had a fair amount of work to get my sermon where I wanted it to be for Sunday morning. I started working on it after we got the kids to bed and then suddenly one of our kids came down in tears because they were so stuffed up they couldn’t sleep, and only needed ‘Daddy’.
I could take care either of the sermon or my kid. So,I took care of our kid and let God take care of the sermon. I was not happy with the sermon, but I was glad I spent most of the night cuddling a sick child.*
Why, you might ask? One of the Anglican Church Fathers, Jeremy Taylor writes in his “Guide to Holy Living”:
“For it is great folly to heap up much wealth for our children, and not to take care concerning the children for whom we get it: it is as if a man should take more care about his shoe than about his foot.”
That between work and family, family should always come first. Which means, and this is no surprise to anyone who been responsible for someone else’s care no matter the age or relation that your work can suffer. That people will think less of you professionally when you make the right choices personally and spiritually. I am grateful to be part of a congregation here that tries to understand this, and I hope that I can continue to internalize it and continue to make it true for myself.
But Taylor’s words are not just for parents or caregivers!
Here is his advice for how to handle our free time:
”Let all the intervals or void spaces of time be employed in prayers, reading, meditating, works of nature, recreation, charity, friendliness and neighborhood,...to begin and end the day with God.”
Sometimes the most significant and holy act we can engage in is to stop what we are doing and be a friend to someone. To say that ‘our relationship is more important than what I’m doing.’ That to care for your neighbor, through time, conversation, companionship, is a kind of prayer, it is how we can spend the day with God. Even more so when a friend is in need. In the book of Job, when Job is at his lowest his three friends show up and the first thing they do is just sit in silence with him for seven days. SEVEN DAYS. Just sitting there. Could you imagine all the things you’d miss?!?
But what scripture reminds us is that those things you would miss, maybe don’t really matter. Because what matters most is deepening our connection to God and to each other. And especially in an increasingly disconnected world - where we would rather re-watch a TV show than read the Bible, or text on our phone than visit a friend, relationships with God and with each other matter a whole lot.
Life is busy right now for many of us. And life at the parish is busy too. But Church work is still ‘work’ and sometimes other things, be they health, family or spirituality, get in the way. And that is okay. We would do well to remember Jesus’ words to Mary and Martha ‘Mary has chosen the better part’ and it will not be taken from her.
This week I hope you too will choose the better part.
*You may be, of course, tempted to ask ‘where was Monica?’ She was sleeping, having been up with sick children the night before. But really the question shouldn’t be asked. We are both parents, both share in the responsibilities of raising our kids and both have careers and passions that pull us in the opposite direction sometimes. I’m grateful to have a partner in life that supports what God calls me to do and that reminds me that God also calls me home.