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I just didn’t get it. (My son often tells me this.)
We’d had a good time at the basketball courts, my 13-year-old son and me and a half dozen temporary teammates. Out of energy but content, we started our 20-minute walk home. I can’t rebuild that wrecked conversation now, and there’s no instant replay available – all I know is that I must have said a steaming pile of Wrong Things, and before I could say “that was fun” my lad was snorting and stomping his way as far from Dad as he could get. He’s a fiery critter, and stubborn, and maybe-just-maybe a little too much like his old man for our collective good.
Here we go again, I muttered. How did we get here from there?
Darkness fell, and alone, I turned to an old favorite consolation. You may know this prayer: it’s among the first that most people encounter from the large Baha’i treasury of communions and supplications. I memorized it decades ago, but I sometimes neglect it in favour of longer, more demanding or more recently encountered prayers. (Ha! And all too often, when I need strength or wisdom, I turn the wrong way altogether.) But that night, somehow those familiar words seemed fresh and full of new meaning .
When I finished the prayer, I knew refreshment, even a little gladness. Small miracle! Maybe I spoke it to a new sky, or perhaps I beseeched God more specifically than I often do. I wanted a peaceful heart. I wanted to be a good Dad by the time I got home. And it worked. Check.
These things flashed through my mind as I called on far-higher powers than my own:
Good evening, Great Mystery. It’s me again.
Refresh and gladden my spirit.
I know. Kindly hear my rather blunt request. Bring it on, please, because I don’t think I’ll find it by myself anytime soon.
Purify my heart.
Yes, and good luck with that! Rancor, frustration, blame, the usual suspects, all live there. But I have learned: Thou art the Mighty…the Compassionate… the All-Knowing…the King, the Protector, the Incomparable, the Omnipotent… So. Maybe.
Illumine my powers.
Turn on the light, okay? I know I left some patience and understanding in there somewhere.
I lay all my affairs in Thy hand.
Better Yours than mine, boy oh boy.
Thou art my Guide and my Refuge.
Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I have direction, and safety, and my son needs them, too. Guide him. Protect him. Help me to do my part.
I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved;
Time’s up for sadness. Whew. This feels good and better and right.
I will be a happy and joyful being.
Breathe, Dad, breathe. We’ll have glad days, jokes and button-busting pride, all just beyond this ridge.
Heavenly Father, Great Spirit, Counselor, Peacemaker, Coach.
I will no longer be full of anxiety,
Yes. I do worry about my boy, but anxiety doesn’t help him. Confidence does.
nor will I let trouble harass me.
Even his! Especially his, for this noble trouble comes to everyone who has freely and joyfully chosen to be a father.
I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life.
I have told myself (and You) this so many times! Tonight I’m listening.
You, more awesome than a starry sky, but as near as my life vein. I remember.
Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself.
Thanks for the reminder. So welcome, though I never stopped knowing it. And of course, more father to my son than I, and yet my own infinitely ancestral Father as well. Father. Friend. Someday I will be both to him, too.
I dedicate myself to Thee, O Lord.
And I’ll do it again. And yet again. Dedication to the King means, among all the duties, steadfastness as a Dad. Thanks for teaching me what to pray for.
I proved it to myself again – prayer works. My perturbed heart calmed, my irritation had turned not into anger or spinelessness but into a calmer acceptance. Hey, fatherhood is my job. It’s a tough one, but so what? It’s the greatest work, and I’m not alone in it. The quiet of the evening had seeped into my blood and bones and belief. It also diffused across a slightly more permeable membrane between son and self, and g’night was actually good. A small crisis turned into a tiny victory.
Click here to listen to the author’s favorite song lately – this beautiful prayer set to music, from the Baha’i group Badasht:
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