Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
My brother and I spent the the Labor Day four-day weekend with my Bible study group at a beach in Oregon. It was a beautiful time, beautiful scenery shared with good friends, over good food, and a bit of the fruit of the hop vine to make merry our hearts.
Spending the time with my brother in company with others, I noticed that he and I share a similar attitude towards problems that sets us a bit apart. No fire wood handy? “We’ll build a drag and move driftwood around the point of the beach to our fire spot.” No trail visible to the top of the waterfall? “We’ll find one or make one.” Somebody accidentally took the rice bag we were planning on using? “We’ll figure something else out. Got to be something around here somewhere.”
Put it simply, we make things happen. We will solve the problem, or we will reshape it, or figure out a way around it. Inside the box or outside the box, we are going to find a way to acheive the goal. Either one of us alone is pretty decent, but put us together and we are pretty much unstoppable, and the reasons for this go very deep, I think. We are both military guys, and both in decent shape with a lot of training under our belt. We are also both fairly intelligent, though with significant differences in mental strengths and weakness (I think in depth, he thinks in breadth. I am analytical, he is spacial and physical, along with an amazing capacity for storing and retreiving raw information.) We work and play together very well, but these skills and abilities are not the whole story. They are not uncommon, and totally achievable by most men who are willing to put in the effort. Other men have different skills and abilities that we don’t have. The quality that I was beginning to see over the weekend is something intangible, upon which all of these secondary qualities are built.
It is like a kind of faith. Deep down inside, so deep down that it is subconscious, operant in all our actions, thoughts and plans whether we like it or not, is a certainty that this can be done. Call it hope, if you like. Whether it is a challenge at work, or a difficulty in a relationship, or a sickness or injury, weakness, a rock in the path, it doesn’t matter. The possibility of being defeated simply doesn’t occur to us as a real possibility.
This may sound cocky and arrogant, but it isn’t. It is hope. It doesn’t rest on our own abilities, but is a certainty based on something else entirely (I’ll get to that in a bit.) It leads us to do cocky things, sometimes, when we let it get out of hand, but then again, we’re both still alive (thanks to God’s grace alone).
Someone asked me this weekend where that quality comes from. Where did we learn it? I thought about it for a minute and answered, “I do what my father taught me.” And that is precisely it. My father is a jack of all trades, amateur politician and philosopher, farmer, mechanic, architect, physics and math teacher, father, husband, Catholic man. But that is the base of it all, that he is a Man! A true man. My earliest memories of him, so old that they are more subconscious attitudes than typical memories, are nothing more than a simple awareness of reliability and strength. We knew, growing up, didn’t think, didn’t guess, didn’t hope, but knew to the depth of our soul, that he was an honest man. He did what he said he would do. He fixed what he said he would fix. If it was broken he would fix it (and not freak out if we were the ones who broke it). If he didn’t know how to fix it, he would figure it out. If he couldn’t figure it out or didn’t have the tools or the parts, he knew someone who did. If it was smashed beyond all recognition he could figure out a way to make do without it, or build a new one. He had to. He had no choice if his wife and children were going to eat.
“God has a reason.” Trust in God. That is the cornerstone of my Dad’s character. Shortly after inheriting the farm and finally being able to do what he had always wanted to do with it, the barn burnt down. 60% of the herd died, and the rest had to be sold. He went from being the owner and architect of a thriving organic dairy farm, to being tens of thousands of dollars in debt. His response? “God has a reason.”
Freudian psychologists have a concept called “basic trust” which they say is formed in us by our relationship with our mother in the first year of our life. For good or ill it is shaped in our subconscious and after that can never be changed. I think, however, that there is another reality, just as real and just as powerful. The Bible and our Catholic faith teaches us that the father, as the head of the family, is a representative of God, the priest in the domestic church. I think this goes far beyond the usual idea of providing, protecting and leading. This reaches deep into the subconscious of the children’s minds and shapes the view they have of God for the rest of their lives. No matter what we learn or what changes our beliefs undergo, at their most basic level they are influenced by our fathers and who they were to us.
This is where my brothers and I get this certainty of success. That indomitable hope, virtually indistinguishable at any time from sheer, pigheaded stubbornness, is based on the conviction that “God has a reason.” God has a plan. It is good. It is unstoppable. It is utterly trustworthy. No matter what the setback, we will find a way to move forward. If not this way, then another way. All will be well.
We know this because we know what our Father does.