He’s not perfect.
I didn’t know that then, when my head finally reached the height where I could butt my chin on his belt buckle at long last. It never crossed my mind as I stood on the tops of my father's polished wingtips and demanded he walk with me attached to his legs like an octopus, both deadweight and delighted.
He wasn’t perfect, when we went out to grab $1 hamburgers for the family and also a secret bag of French fries that we gobbled up before we pulled into the driveway, licking our fingers to remove the delicious salty evidence, folding the greasy bag into a tiny square to be tucked discreetly in the kitchen trash can on our way into the house. But I didn’t know that then.
Neither was he perfect when he taught me chess and cribbage, patiently watching me make my choices, then revealing the more logical strategies that must have been so evident to him all along. When his little navigator looked in vain for the answer on the map as we drove right past the exit I’d been tasked with finding, or when my answers on the literature quiz showed laziness and lack of interest and insight, his imperfections were not apparent.
He wasn’t perfect.
But I thought he was. I thought he walked on water. I was SO proud of my Dad.
Now, as an adult with children of my own, I realize how he must have struggled with the near-constant barrage of parental fears and failures. He must have felt he let us down many times. I didn’t know then I was an instrument in his own forgiving. Part of his process. A lesson not found in any textbook, but learned on the quiet battlefield of the upstairs hallway. The school office. The passenger seat of the car.
I don’t remember the first time it crossed my mind that my dad could be wrong about something. That he was not, indeed, the perfect father or husband or even son. Somewhere along the way, like accepting your parents are mortal, I accepted that my father was human, as well.
And if I thought back really hard, examined memories, I could see it, here and there. A moment of lost temper at a teenager, raised voices and pulsing temples… and an apology later in the living room. An angry arrow of a comment that found its mark in my mother… and the wordless make-up I stumbled across in the kitchen that afternoon.
Oh, yes, they were there, those moments of imperfection, of not-even-close.
I can see them now, but with the gift of age and experience of my own, they are like waves washing over words written in the sand.
So clear; then with a wave, blurred.
Another wave, completely obscured.
Another wave, and they never existed.
The imperfections are a gift, I see now. The gift is in the grace of the perfect circle.
The symmetry of the mercy as each imperfect generation learns the power of a simple living-out of life before the Lord. An ongoing perfection of forgiveness as each of us comes up short against the reality of our failures, and finds nothing but faithfulness, new every morning.
I know now that he does not walk on water.
But I am still SO proud of my Dad.