A visiting preacher at our local church told the following story about his son, Nathan.
The boy had enrolled himself in the school cross-country event and he wanted his dad to be there to watch him. His father said that, when he got to the event, he looked across at the other children who were all kitted out in the best sportswear, some wearing running spikes.
He then looked over to his son, who he could see wearing an old pair of trainers, a tee shirt and a pair of football shorts.
As the kids started limbering up and beginning their warm up exercises, Nathan stood there, hands on hips, kicking his trainers, and Paul had already started to think that his son was out probably of his depth. The gun sounded and the race got under way. The other runners took off at a pace but Nathan seemed to get a little stuck in the mud and after only a few minutes, Paul was dismayed to realise his son was in last place.
He told us that he began to think about what he could say to his son if he came in last. There would be no shame in that, thought Paul, he could tell him all about the true spirit of sport and that it was all about taking part, not winning. Yes. That was it, that was what he was going to say, he resolved. But as he was thinking these thoughts, he could see the runners on the other side of the course and Nathan had overtaken another straggler.
What a relief that was, Paul told us. At least he would now be able to say that it could have been worse. At least, his son was not going to come last and he was pleased with that thought. But then he noticed Nathan overtook another lad and before too long had moved up into the middle of the field. Well, Paul said, I was really pleased with that. If he finished there, I could tell him that he was average. “What a joy” he was thinking, “my son is average.”
As the runners passed, there were other parents, the ones who’s kids were at the front, leaping out of their chairs with excitement and shouting at the top of their voices. Paul said he thought this was a little “over the top”, after all, it was only a school sports event. As they passed, he politely clapped and managed a “well done boys. Very good effort.”
But there was still another lap to go and Paul could see that Nathan was beginning to make up yet more ground on the other runners. As they passed the pavilion on the far side of the course, Nathan had moved up to fifth place. “Come on Nathan!” Paul shouted. Perhaps, he could finish in amongst the medals Paul thought. That would be a great achievement for his son competing against this field. “Come on Nathan! You can do it son!” he shouted.
As they reached the turn, with Nathan now in third place, Paul said that he was ecstactic. Now, jumping up and down, in Paul’s own words, “making a complete exhibition” of himself, he was roaring at the top of his voice. “Come on Nathan! Come on Nathan! You can do it!” The other parents started looking in Paul’s direction, some with a little disdain, and he heard one person mutter, “isn’t he supposed to be a pastor?”
But as the runners reached the final bend, with Nathan now in second place, his dad was as animated as it is possible to be and his voice was booming support. “That’s my son” he said to those who were still looking at him and Paul continued balling at the top of his voice, “Come one Nathan! Come on son! You can do it Nathan! Come on!” as he watched Nathan take the leader on the final bend and come in to win the race.
“That’s my boy!” he shouted and, overjoyed, he ran over to Nathan and flung his arms around his son, proud as any father would be.
What Paul then said has stayed with me ever since. He said that the story reminded him of how God felt about his children. He said that God was just like that. He is the one who is there cheering for us every step of the way, just like a doting father, but with one difference: God, he said, shouts for us even when we are at the back.
P.S. Father’s Day dates are below:
|Year||UK & USA||Aus & NZ|
|2012||June 17||Sep 2|
|2013||June 16||Sep 1|
|2014||June 15||Sep 7|
|2015||June 21||Sep 6|