How would you respond to this question? The sentence above is the subtitle from a chapter on fathers in James Smith’s new book on Augustine, entitled “On the Road with Saint Augustine.” Smith described Augustine’s spiritual life as that of being on a journey back home to the Father.
Many men are on the road looking for their fathers. It could very well be the oldest story. “You do not stop hungering for your father’s love,” Paul Auster notes, “even after you are grown up.” Speaking of his father, Auster laments, “It was not that I felt he disliked me. It was just that he seemed distracted, unable to look in my direction. And more than anything, I wanted him to take notice of me.”
The description of a father being distracted and not noticing is something I felt very deeply as a young boy. I was never fathered by my Dad, even though he cared about me and was a good provider. I longed for my father’s embrace. I never was able to receive his approval of myself as a man.
Smith quotes Thomas Wolf ‘s observation about our search, “….the deepest search in life…the thing that in one way or another was central to all living was man’s search to find a father, not merely the father of his flesh, not merely the lost father of his youth, but the image of a strength and wisdom external to his need and superior to his hunger, to which the belief and power of his own life could be united.”
As a young man, I had no idea that I was searching for the approval of my heavenly Father. To me, God, the Father was distant, viewing me as incapable of his approval. Thus, my hyper performance orientation, even as a pastor. It took some time on the journey before I know that I was being embraced by my heavenly Father, who was “strength and wisdom” exterior to my needs.
Augustine, became known as the doctor of grace, because Jesus brought him to a father who came looking for him. That looking is grace. As Augustine searched on the road, he was found by his father and brought home.
At the heart of the Good News, told to us by Jesus, is the wonderful truth that speaks to the deep hunger for a caring father; one who we can came to know and be loved by. We can celebrate the news that we have a father who comes looking for us, who adopts us, who chooses us and “who sees you a long way off and comes running and says, ‘I’ve been waiting for you.'”
Men on the road looking for an absent, distant father, like myself, are covering up a deep desire. It is that of a father, who would come looking for them. The arrow of hunger Smith notes is, “reversed and the father would return.”
Could some man reading the blog today sense the brokenness and loneliness of their journey, as a need to be embraced because of a father hunger that goes much deeper then words can express.
This father hunger, when embraced, helps us embrace a deeper longing to be seen and known by the One who made us.
Men, drink deeply from this great quote by Augustine. “To be comforted by the word of God’s grace unto the hope of pardon of our sins is to return after a long journey to obtain from a father the kiss of love.”