A Field of Dreams for Fathers
As a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, I devoured John Grisham's latest novel called Calico Joe. Weaving together historical figures and fictional characters, Grisham tells the story of Joe King, a Cubs rookie who sets the league on fire doing the 1973 season. He creates a parallel plot focusing on the tragic upbringing for a boy named Paul Tracy, whose life is forever damaged by his father's ending of Joe King's career with an intentional beaning that summer of 1973. The unfolding story may be fictional, but reveals the enduring reality of family tragedy. Years ensue as a grown Paul Tracy hatches a plan to help his father, Warren, redeem a wasted life about to end due to cancer.
I was struck by this story and the use of the simple joy of a young boy dreaming about baseball and how this field of dreams can actually become a field of grace. For all of us who have known the joys and heartaches of fatherhood, we know that our fields of dreams for our children inevitably also need a field of grace. Father's Day, like special recognition days in America, has been infected by the marketing bug--man toys, updating dad's wardrobe, and BBQ's become the ever-present sales pitch that rises to a fever pitch. Selling Father's Day can overwhelm the fact that this day also provides an opportunity for dads to think about what it means to be a father. Truth be told, our own dads are important influences on who we become. If we become a father ourselves and watch our children grow up, we see in vivid human experience that fatherhood can be a mixed bag. It carries with it moments of great joy and lingering shadows of the mistakes we all have made as a father. That's where we need a field of grace.
Fatherhood is a poignant experience where we are confronted with our human inadequacy on a regular basis. That's why I loved Grisham's Calico Joe. Baseball is a game where you can be a hero one day and a deep disappointment the next. Making ESPN "plays of the day" segment doesn't happen for every player and certainly never without continual striving for consistency. Most of us dads have regular good days as father, a few spectacular days, and then there are more days than we would like, where we just messed up. Those "mess up days" all too often get blown out of proportion in our memory, we live with guilt and try to overcompensate, which only adds to the complexity.
I'm glad my "mess up days" have approached equilibrium when balanced out by a few good days and the rare spectacular moments. I'm also grateful for a heavenly Father who has been ever faithful and provided grace to my family when I was less than adequate. I am even more grateful that my field of dreams, to be a great father, has not ended with an "error" on a difficult play because that field of dreams has been a doorway to a field of God's grace that I would have never known without the experience of fatherhood.
To Victoria and Olivia, the two finest daughters a father could ever have.
Happy Father's Day!
Byron D. Klaus, President
Assemblies of God Theological Seminary