In 2009, on Fathers Day, I gave an address at St Philip Anglican Church about growing up with my German, war damaged father and how it has influenced how I understand good and evil, love and war.
When we look at a child, not only are we looking at the image of God but the image of God is looking at us. Our dad exposed my sisters and I too early to the brokenness of humanity and yet because of our childlike openness we saw through the dark and loved this man. Love comes from God. I have come to wonder that we have been so focused on God the Father, and God the Mother we have forgotten who Christ is:
Christ is a child.
A memory came to me of my dad’s hands and a Bible and the words “I am the Resurrection and the Life”. I remembered that my dad had sought for Christ. We even went to church for a while – a very black and white version. But he could not rest in salvation, because he could not believe, no matter how hard he tried, that there was a way for him to be good again. Yet it was goodness in him that strained against evil and declared him condemned.
I remember the sorrow that came from deep in his eyes and the sound of his sobbing which one night made me forget my fear and run into his arms to hold him. I remember the sound of his voice as he tried to escape the memory of horror- his struggle made all the more torturous because he had believed he had been fighting on the side of the good. My mum described how the dreadful reality of what he had fought for tore him apart “you could see the battle in him” she said, “you see, they thought they were saving the world”.
How many people have been ruined, how many have died in the name of saving the world?
At least 60 million lives were destroyed in this Second World War. How much of others’ good do we destroy when we are convinced that it is our idea of good that is absolute? How much of ourselves do we lose when we do violence to the one we call “other”? There is no “other side.” Violence is a two edged sword.
Because of my dad, I am unable to turn my eyes away from the human nature of evil. I cannot ignore that the story of the Garden tells us that as well as evil we have good, and it is knowledge of good and evil, not of evil alone that pulls humans apart and brings death to us.
This story is difficult to tell. It’s a story I would prefer not to be a part of. I grew up in Australia, with it’s war stories I was taught at school. I now live in Canada that gave it’s sons to save a little country called Holland where I was born, and to whom my mother and her family owe their lives. I have listened to story after story of those who have died- stories of hope and fear, heartache, courage and sacrifice- holocaust stories, and war stories I have wept for. Stories we have wept for.
Now that I have heard my father’s story I no longer have the safety of being an “us” or a “them.”
One Sunday I heard these words by Richard Rohr “… pain not transformed is transmitted… each of us needs to face our piece and do our work and declare: the pain stops here.”
I long for the pain of war to stop. I want to drag my own father from the horror of his war and place him in the embrace of Love that sees further than where we have been, and deeper than what we have done. I want him in the arms of a God who breaks open, beyond, and between good and evil, and says to all of us:
“All I want is my child home”.