My father is a man of action. He shows his love by doing things for you. Growing up, he was a good provider. He worked without complaint, tended a garden for our food and maintained home and car with diligence. If I needed a ride somewhere, he would jump up without question and take me where I needed to go.
Having been raised in a typical post-war Italian family my father learned to work hard and speak little. As he expressed a few years ago during an incredibly emotional time in my life, “My parents never taught me how to express my emotions. We never talked about things. So I never learned how to do that for you.” It was the most honest, vulnerable and painful statement I’ve ever heard my father make.
Growing up with this situation was difficult. My father was silent most of the time. I never knew what he was thinking. I would talk and talk and talk sometimes in the hopes he would offer his views, his feelings, his disdain, anything. I would’ve taken anything. But instead, I got silence.
Something hit me yesterday as I was speaking of my father to a friend. I realized that my relationship with God had been no different. The emotionally unavailable father I had in person was no different than the one I had in spirit. I spoke to God every day. I shared my life with him. I tried so hard to get his approval, to get his feedback, to get the universal pat on the head that would make everything all right. And like my father on earth, my heavenly father returned my petitions with silence.
And I wonder how many people want to believe in a God as they want to believe in a father who speaks to them, cherishes them, responds to them. I wonder if we have created God in the image of the parent whose love we seek. I remember many times having thought my prayers to God were answered, just as I envisioned having lengthy exchanges in my mind with my father where he responded to my queries and concerns. Both were my own creations. I saw what I wanted to see.
My father is more present now. As he ages, he mellows. Some of the walls are coming down and he is talking more. Can’t say the same for God.