The Two Fathers
One Sunday afternoon Jack and his father had gone off for a long walk. It was a warm spring day. The apple trees and shrubs were in bloom. Birds sang in the woods. The bees went booming in and out among the flowers.
As the two chums made their way across the fields, along the brooks, and up among the hills, Jack's father began to tell him about God. "God," he said, "is the great Father in heaven, who loves all his children and watches over them with wise care. This is the day when we think of Him and praise Him in the churches. We keep it holy that it may make us whole."
"Make us whole, Father! Why, what do you mean?" asked Jack.
"Rested and stronger in body, wiser in our minds, and better in our characters," replied his father. " We need to grow into our perfect selves, and Sunday was set apart that we might do so."
As they climbed a fence and came into some woods, Jack heard a faint "Peep! Peep!" down among the leaves. When he came to the place, a mother bird flew up and sat on a branch over his head, scolding as if she wanted Jack and his father to go away. Jack stooped down and found a poor little bird that had fallen out of the nest. It was too young to fly. The mother and father birds had wings instead of arms, and so they could not carry it.
"O Father, look!" cried Jack. "Where do you suppose it came from? Oh, I see! There is the nest right over your head. Can you reach it? Let's put it back."
"Indeed, we will, Jack."
His father bent down, lifted the bird gently and laid it back in the nest.
"Now, mother robin, you had better warn your babies not to lean over so far when you bring those fat worms to them. Only think, Jack! Jesus once said that not a little bird could fall to the ground with out God's knowing it. It is good to have such a Father in heaven, isn't it?"
"Yes, but I can't see God, Father," said Jack.
"No, and you can't always see me," said his father. "Yet there is not an hour, day or night, when Mother and I are not caring for you. While I aim at the store, I am working for you, so that you may have shoes and food and games and all sorts of good things. And every night when you are alseep, Mother and I tuck you in snug and warm. Whether you see us or not, it is our love that is watching over you and trying to make your life good."
"Yes, but I see you sometimes," said Jack.
"Well, perhaps if you and I were better and wiser, we could see more signs of God, and of His love. He is too great to be seen by our little eyes, as we see each other. Still we know He is present, just as when the light wakes you in the morning, you know that the sun is in the sky, even though you cannot see it from your bed. Besides, when you try to look at the sun, it is so bright that its beauty blinds you. Per- haps God is so bright in his glory, so different from what human eyes were made to look at, that we could not see him. So he gave us a picture of Himself in Jesus. When we see how the great Son of God loved and cared for his brothers and sisters, we have the picture of how the Father loves and cares for us."
"But where do we see signs of God's care, Father?" asked Jack.
"All around us, 1ny boy. Who sends the showers and makes the wheat to grow, so that,you and I may have bread? Who paints the sunset, and hangs the moon and the stars in the sky, and feeds the birds? And who gave you and Mother and me to one another? When you find a warm supper on the table, or clean clothes by your bed in the morning, or a new ball by your chair on your birthday, you know that Mother has been thinking of you, and working for you. Just so all the world, and all loving hearts, and many blessings are signs of the love and care of God."
Jack looked up at his father and then away toward the west, where the sun had begun to sink below the hills. It seemed strange. But if his father said so, it must be true. He wished, though, that in some way he might feel as sure of God as his father did. And the day came when that was true. But some hard, dark days came first.
Soon after this walk and talk, Jack was very sick. A great doctor from the city was sent for. When he came, he said that Jack must breathe a queer gas that would put him to sleep. He had to do this so that Jack would feel no pain while the doctor's knife cut into his body and took out the part which otherwise might cause his death.
Jack was a brave boy. He did what the doctor told him to do. It was rather fun to climb up on the white table. Besides, he was not afraid; for his father stood right beside him, and held tight hold of his hand.
"Lie still, Jack," said his father. "It will soon be over. And then what gay times we will have when you are well!"
"Don't leave me, Father, will you?" said Jack, as the nurse brought a queer white cone, and showed him how it would fit over his nose.
"No, Jack, I won't leave you for a single minute. I'll stay close beside you until you wake up, and can look into my eyes."
"All right! Then I don't mind. Go ahead, nurse Isn't that a queer smell!"
A queer smell it was. Before many minutes Jack was so sound asleep that he never felt the knife with which the great doctor cut out the cause of his trouble. Neither did he feel the needle and thread with which the doctor sewed up the wound. At last it was all over, and Jack was laid in a clean white bed. The nurse moved around the room as still as a mouse. Jack's father sat down beside him until he should open his eyes.
It seemed a long time. But after a while the blue eyes opened and then closed again. Jack's father gave his hand a little squeeze, and bending down said, "Hello, Jack!" But Jack had not waked enough to hear.
By and by he grew a little restless, and moved his head from side to side, as if in pain. At once his father wet a cloth and bathed his lips and his forehead. Then he made a cool place in his pillow, and fanned away a fly that buzzed too near Jack's nose.
An hour passed. Again the eyes opened. This time they looked and saw; for a smile broke on Jack's face, before the pain brought back the wrinkles and he once more fell asleep.
Even when Jack felt better and was quite awake and wanted to talk, the nurse said, "Not yet, Jack. You must wait until the morning before you talk with your father." And his father added, "I'm right here, my boy. Go to sleep, and I'll. be close beside you when the dawn comes."
The great doctor had done his work well. Every day Jack grew better. At last the nurse said he might sit up in a wheel chair and be rolled out on the porch. One afternoon as he sat there with his father, he thought of that first strange night of his sickness.
"I did not mind the'pain much, Father," Jack said. "But I didn't like it when-you-left me."
"Left you! I never left you at all!"
"Why, Father, I thought you did. Was I dreaming? It seemed to me as if I were lost in a great wood. It grew dark, and I was hungry and lonely. I tried to find you, but I could not. I called to you, but you did not come. And then I lay down and was afraid because there was no one to take care of me. And yet you were with me all the Time!"
"All the time, Jack! Nurse and I scarcely left the room. When you dreamed you were lost in the woods, you were lying in a cosy, clean bed. When you thought you were all alone, I was holding your hand, and waiting for you to open your eyes and know me again. When you felt so unhappy, I was doing everything in my power to make you happy and well."
"Isn't that strange, Father! Now I begin to see how God can be close beside us and caring for us, even when we do not see Him at all."
Just then a robin flew up on a tree near the porch. He poured out a song so full of joy that Jack and his father stopped talking.
"Isn't that a lovely carol?" said the father.
Jack was silent for a moment and then said, "Yes. I wonder if that is one of our robins?"
"What robins, Jack?"
"Why, the ones whose baby we put back into the nest!"
"Perhaps it is! Who knows but what this is their way of saying, 'Thank you!' As soon as you are better, we must go together to the doctor's home and thank him for his skillful service; and when we say our prayers to-night, we must both thank the Heavenly Father for His part in making you well."
And they did.