Living in the Father's presence

The line was in the water. The bobber was floating on top. I asked dad for a can of Coke and he popped the top for me. We were in our fishing boat, on our favorite lake 20 minutes from home. I was five years old, fishing with my dad and drinking a can of soda. Life doesn’t get much better than that for a boy that age.

The bobber began popping up and down. It caught my attention. I asked dad to hold the can of Coke for me. I went to pick up the rod and the bobber disappeared completely under the surface of the water. I excitedly picked it up with both hands and the reel began to sing as the line went out from the pull of the fish. I felt overwhelmed by whatever was on the line. Dad, would you help me with this?

You’ve got this son. This is your fish. In that moment, I did not have the confidence he did. But I wasn’t going to quit. I fought hard to keep the line tight, and occasionally I would make some progress reeling in some line. Then the fish would run again and any progress I made was lost. It was a long fight, and eventually I won. Dad grabbed the net and gently scooped up the fish. It was a beautiful smallmouth bass! Dad reached for his tackle box and pulled out the scale. It weighed in at 3-1/2 pounds. For a smallmouth bass, it was a large fish! And the 5 year old me landed it all by myself. I was so excited! Couldn’t wait to show mom my catch.

I am grateful for the years of my childhood when dad included me in his fishing excursions. It was his favorite pastime and I have fond memories of time with him in the boat on a lake. Without hesitation, those were cherished moments with my dad. And they continued into my pre-teen years.

But as I entered my teen years, dad lost his grip. At times, life circumstances overwhelmed him. The years of tension in his marriage to my mother grew worse. I knew my dad loved me, but when I felt like I needed him most entering into my young adult years, he was absent. And in the moments of decision-making where my desires were not in line with his expectations, absence became antagonism and disappointment. I felt alone and on my own. But I wasn’t going to quit.

When I reflect on these memories of my childhood, I recognize two aspects about my personhood. The first: if I believe something is worthwhile, I will not quit until it’s accomplished. Second: I learned to be an emotionally independent person. It’s amazing the decisions and agreements we make with ourselves - especially in our formative years - for the sake of survival and preservation. As humans we are incredibly resilient and desperately fragile at the same time. Though these attributes have their strengths, in relationships they can be hurdles and liabilities to intimacy and oneness.

Last summer I was backpacking in the Rocky Mountains of Northern Colorado. Our group stopped by a creek for a short break. In that moment, I realized I was standing next to some trees which had been destroyed by beetle infestation. Then I looked down and saw seedlings which had sprouted and were growing right next to the dead trees. I recognized something very significant about God - it is His nature to heal and restore that which has been broken. It is true of His creation, and it is especially true of humanity. Jesus did not come to simply save us. He came to heal and restore our union with God and the glory of who He created us to be.

This gives me hope! I don’t feel alone and on my own. My Father is with me, ready to walk with me in the broken places of my story to bring healing and restoration. God’s promise is to never leave us. In fact we are His adopted sons and daughters! Each morning when I wake up, I get to make a choice of living in the love and freedom of being God’s beloved son or living as if I am on my own. May I choose each day to live in the love and presence of my Father.

What will you choose today? To live alone, or in the Father's presence?

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Patrick O'Bryan - Director of the Grove