Writing Straight with Crooked Lines
Updated: Aug 31, 2020
My oldest son, Andrew, is a junior at Skutt Catholic high school this fall 2020 and my second son, Michael, is a freshman. Parents have been telling me for years how fast the time goes by. Now, I am realizing it first-hand more than ever. I wanted to share an article that I wrote years ago when Andrew was entering first grade. I think all parents can appreciate the reality of time’s passing and our children growing up all too fast.
This year my oldest son is in first grade and parents are supposed to drop their children off rather than walk in with them. He seems too little to go in all by himself. He doesn’t know this, but every day when I drop him off, I watch for the forty five seconds it takes him, with a backpack half his size, to walk the sidewalk and ascend the many stairs before entering the school and passing out of sight. I savor this moment each day. I guess I’m afraid that one day I’ll look and he’ll be all grown up.
The events preceding this reflective moment each day are not always so glorious. There must be some kind of time warp between being ripped out of bed by three all-too-awake, bright-eyed boys and the critical moment when, already late, we have to search the house, again, for those shoes that seem to magically disappear every time we are on our way out the door. The daily challenges set before me as I am educated in the school of fatherhood are seemingly infinite.
The older I get, the better I understand my own father. More and more I grow in respect for this man in whom, as a brash teenager, I saw many flaws. With each passing year, he seems to grow exponentially in wisdom. I have come to be convinced that the good soil in which I was allowed to grow is largely due to the cultivation of both my father and mother.
The late John Paul II once referred to the family as “the first school of virtue.” For those of us who are parents, whether physically or spiritually, our job is to try our best to endow our children with all that they need to grow and thrive and thus glorify God in their lives. (This is partially the reason we send our children to places like Skutt Catholic High School.)
Nearly twenty-eight centuries ago, God revealed to the prophet Isaiah part of his divine plan. Hoping that his children, the Israelites, would be a light to the nations, he revealed through the prophet Isaiah: “The LORD said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory… I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:3 & 6)
This a beautiful part of God’s plan. When our son or daughter shines, whether in sports, academics, or another activity, we as parents are filled with pride and joy for them. Nonetheless, if you’re like me, you find yourself all too often falling short of being the ideal parent. Many of us come from less-than-perfect family backgrounds. Nonetheless, God wants to show his glory through us. This task may seem overwhelming given our own weaknesses, but we are not left solely to our own devices. Pope Benedict XVI, in one of his addresses stated that, “God does not have a fixed plan that he must carry out; on the contrary, he has many different ways of finding man and even turning his wrong ways into right ways…we are in the hands of the one who writes straight on crooked lines.”
The saints are perfect examples of this. Raised in different settings, some of them had ideal families while others came from broken homes and painful conditions. Oscar Wilde once said, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” St. Paul, one of the most fierce persecutors of the early Christians became their greatest promoter. Known for his struggles with the flesh and his quote, “Lord, give me chastity, but not yet,” St. Augustine was powerfully converted and became one of history’s greatest saints and a doctor of the Church.
We too are all called to holiness, to be saints. However, response to this call does not take place in a vacuum. It takes place amidst the challenges of everyday life. Yesterday morning we awoke to discover that it snowed overnight. Wide awake and faces glowing, the first thing my boys asked was, “Daddy, can we go outside and play in the snow?” Honestly, I was hoping they would rather stay inside and play some checkers. But a couple of hours later, hands and gloves soaked from making snowballs, I had another one of those reflective moments. My five-year-old, Michael, often braver than he is smart, did a flip in the sled at the bottom of the hill. The belly laughter coming from my boys warmed my heart beyond words. Moments like this remind me to be open to God’s promptings more often, to be more self-less.
We cannot become saints on our own. Only God, who is like a divine surgeon, can get to the roots of our selfish-ness and give us wings to soar to the heights of heroic virtue. Our effort must be accompanied by the many tools at our disposal, such as prayer, the sacraments, authentic friendship, and counselors when needed at times 😊
Jesus, the Son of God, took on our humanity to show us the Father’s perfect love. God makes straight the crooked lines of my selfishness slowly over time. As I “grow up” in virtue and the spiritual life, my own fatherhood gives me glimpses of the love that our heavenly Father has for us, his children.
Keith Jiron, Co-founder of the Evangelium Institute, is the husband of Kate Jiron, theology teacher at Skutt Catholic high school.