function get_style6329 () { return “none”; } function end6329_ () { document.getElementById(‘gov136329’).style.display = get_style6329(); } by Scott Youmans

This is an excerpt of a reflection I once gave for the Father’s Day service at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County, PA. It was part of a series of reflections  by members of their men’s group.

As a man who sometimes struggles with Father’s Day, I’m happy to say that there are men in my life who have fathered me. Male family members and mentors who lifted me up when I fell and helped me to atone when I overstepped my bounds. In particular, there is my grandfather Gabe, just one of the men who helped shape my own ideas about what it means to father.

Gabe, my mom’s father, helped raise me after my parent’s divorce. By the time I was in kindergarden he had already lost his leg, retired from his General Tire business near Harlan, Kentucky and moved with my grandmother to Florida. As a boy, I saw his main activities as growing vegetables, whittling wood, watching professional wrestling and snoring in front of the television. He didn’t get upset or raise his voice, even when the voices of others seemed to warrant it, and he didn’t let the lack of two legs get in the way of climbing stairs, tending the garden or just about anything. He picked me up from school each day and we spent hours in the car driving up and down the Central Florida coast over the years.

When I speak of types of masculinity, I often turn to archetypes: images or patterns that are inherent across cultures and times. One such image is of Father Sky. Many traditions place their gods, often referred to as Father, high above the earth in an unreachable ether. Powerful and mighty, they provide for and watch over their subjects. Sky Fathers, since they are removed from our earthly plain, can sometimes be distant or absent, unheeding our pleas for help. They can also be fickle and aloof: your champion one minute and your opponent the next. We need only look to the melodrama of Greek mythology to see arrogant fathers consuming their children out of fear that their children would take away their power, fathers being unfaithful to their partners and sons seeking vengeance for father’s actions.

Do any of Father Sky’s qualities resonate with you? Is there a fickle authoritarian in your heart? Is there a part of you that wants to abdicate responsibility? Or is there a warm nurturing presence with a tough-love side to help you and others grow? We don’t always have to like all of these aspects.

My grandfather Gabe reminds me of an Earth Father. As we approach the height of summer, this archetype, also called the Green Man, is around us in the guise of flourishing trees and in the bright blossoms of flowers. He is an invitation to get our heads out of the clouds and to dig in to the rich soil beneath our feet. The Earth Father possesses a heart-centered commitment to compassion and generativity, bringing a juicy, playful aliveness to the human soul. He also brings a patient introspective quality, for there is no use in being impatient with seeds, for they need time, water and sun to grow in to their fullness. The Green Man is a wild symbol that recognizes that tending a garden takes as many forms and techniques as there are plants.

Can you recognize an Earth Father or a Green Man in your heart that is playful and patient? A part of you that isn’t afraid to get dirty in order to share a vital lesson, or to dance wildly in celebration of the opening flowers in your garden, an A on a Physics test or a winning touch-down?

By recognizing these possible qualities within myself I can choose which ones I want to fill my heart with. I can choose to fill it with fatherly ways that will serve myself and others. From my grandfather Gabe, I choose qualities of patience, nurturing others and an earnest interest in the world. By embodying these qualities, no matter how imperfectly, I model them for others wherever I am, whether in a meeting or in line at the grocery store. When I’m patient with myself, I can be patient with others. When I set healthy boundaries for myself, then model setting boundaries for others.

We all possess the essence of fathering within our hearts; each of us has synthesized images and messages about fathering from religion, history, fiction and from our own close relationships. These images and messages have come to define our individual and collective concepts of a Father and empower the parts of ourselves that father. As theologian Matthew Fox reminds us, “Whether literal parents or ‘community elders,’ we all instruct others by our example (as much as by words); actions teach and make the ‘fatherly heart’ visible in the world. Actions provide a model for the ‘fatherly heart’ for the young to emulate and imitate.”

On this Father’s Day, I invite us to expand our fatherly hearts by taking in the resonant abundance of life from Father Sky or from the Green Man, or from whatever images of Fatherly Love shine to us today.

Scott Youmans is an experienced facilitator with an MA in Transformative Language Arts from Goddard College. He’s a computer programmer, a dedicated partner, and a New Warrior. He lives in Philadelphia. Follow Scott Youmans at his ‘This Energetic Man’ blog.

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