I’ve been thinking about my father. The one who had my little children believing their brains were in their tummies…until they were old enough to figure out the brains-in-tummies story was just an excuse for Grandpa’s waistline. The one with the alligator in his pocket, with jaws as strong as a grown man’s fingers, that mystified and amused them.
My father was like this when his six children were young, too. He had the power to change traffic lights from red to green, upon command. He could pass a hair from one ear through his head and out the other ear. He magically produced bubble gum from under our pillows.
My father was the one we called when a problem was too tough to handle alone. He always came to the rescue and when he did, it was without a price tag.
Growing up in my father’s family had a curious conceit to it. I’ve pondered this often. How was it that I grew up convinced nothing was out of my reach?
Someone once remarked, and not kindly, “I don’t know what makes you Berry kids think you’re so special.” It wasn’t kind, but it was true. We did think we were special, everyone one of us, and all for no apparent reason. None of us had done anything out of the ordinary. Although each of us knew we could, of course, if we chose to.
What made us think this? What kind of stardust was sprinkled our way? A mysterious love colored my childhood. It was in the air I breathed and, yes, it made me feel ridiculously special.
Years later, when all of us were grown, one confessed a guilty secret to the others. “I’ve felt bad for the rest of you, and guilty, too, all my life. I was the favorite child as we were growing up and it must have been hard on the rest of you.”
“What?” The rest of us pounced. “What do you mean you were the favorite child?”
“No, I was!”
“No, it was me!”
“No, you’re all crazy. Clearly, it was me.”
“Call the cuckoo patrol. It was me!”
When we got over the shock of this frightful news, we broke into laughter, realizing the trick our parents had played on us.
Lately, I’ve been thinking of this as a divine deception. I’ve always known my divine father/mother treasures me. Perhaps now I understand why. I never doubted growing up that my earthly father would swim the widest ocean or climb the highest mountain for me. Or die trying. I never doubted the value he placed on me. It never occurred to me to question his love.
When my first novel was accepted for publication years ago, the sensation of finally arriving pounded through my being and spilled over on everyone I met. My father and I went out for breakfast soon after and I couldn’t stop talking about it. Then suddenly, I realized his enthusiasm wasn’t matching mine.
“Aren’t you proud of me?” I asked. “Isn’t it important to you that I’m going to be published?”
He put down his coffee cup, with that searching look in his eyes. “Of course, I’m proud of you,” he said slowly. “It’s wonderful about the book. But it doesn’t change the way I feel about you. I’ve always been proud of you. The things you accomplish in life are just the icing. You are the cake.”
Some months later, we were discussing a sibling’s business. It was failing and my father had co-signed for the business loan. Now it seemed this would cost him a great deal. “I always had complete confidence in your brother,” my father said.
I sat still on my kitchen stool, steadying myself for his reasonable disappointment.
“And I still do,” he went on. “Nothing about this changes the way I feel about your brother. I’ve always believed in my children, and I always will.”
“How can you say that after what’s happened?” I asked. “I don’t understand.”
“Can’t you understand?” His voice was soft but forceful. “Can’t you see the difference? I believe in YOU. Not in what you do.”
In the weeks that followed, I began to understand. It was a great mystery and I began to think of it as a divine mystery. I began to see my earthly father as a mirror image of my divine father.
The world today desperately needs to know this kind of love. We need to understand the way the divine sees us. We are perfect to our divine father/mother and our perfection has nothing to do with performance. We are perfect not because of what we do but rather, because of who we are.
Our society is based on performance. In our country, the ones who achieve count. In divine country, the ones who are born count. We are perfect…just because we are. None of our actions, positive or negative, change this bedrock acceptance and love.
My father thought each of his six children was wonderful. Whether brilliant or dim-witted, physically beautiful or homely, pliable or rebellious, shy or outgoing, nothing made a difference. As we went through life, he celebrated with us when we succeeded and cried with us when we failed. Both were equally acceptable to him and the basis of his love never changed.
Success is your birthright as well. Not because you achieve it but because you are born to it. The creator of all things reached down and marked you. Before you were born, there was a whisper. “This human is worth everything to me.”
This fact of your making allows you to be perfectly imperfect for all time. Worthy of everything for all time. The divine mystery is that you don’t need to prove your worth. You need only to live in it.
Laurie Berry Clifford
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