But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV)
Patrick Stewart, the British-born actor and star of the X-Men films, spent much of his boyhood stepping between his mother and his abusive, alcoholic father, Alfred Stewart. The turmoil dictated Stewart’s childhood…
But in 2007, Stewart began investigating his dad’s life and was surprised to discover a clipping from the local paper heralding his father’s return in 1940 and mentioning in a brief aside that he was suffering from severe shell shock. Then Stewart made a trip to France where he found that his father’s army unit had been rushed to the front as the Germans slashed through France. Alfred Stewart and his men were caught between a marsh and a bridge, pinned down by bombing for hours. The train conductor uncoupled the engine and drove away, leaving the troops stranded.
Stewart and his men spent the next month on the run from the Germans before being evacuated. Then, despite his shell-shocked status, Alfred Stewart volunteered for the paratroopers. During August 1944 he played a significant role in the liberation of the country he had watched crumble four years earlier.
Patrick Stewart, who knew nothing about his father’s military heroism and agony, said, “I was brought face-to-face with the knowledge that he was a man with experiences I was unaware of … There were reasons why he was an alcoholic and depressed at times. I’ve talked to people who understand post-traumatic stress disorder and described my father’s behavior, and they’ve said, ‘Absolutely classic PTSD behavior! No doubt about it.'”
After hearing the real story of his father’s life, Patrick said, “My anger toward him was dissolving anyway.”
[Stephen Rodrick, “Patrick Stewart: Captain Fantastic,” Men’s Journal (June 2014)]
There was a distance between Patrick Stewart and his father. It was the result of the PTSD Alfred Stewart suffered as a result of his heroic efforts in the war. It brought a lot of pain to Patrick Stewart especially in his childhood. However, reading about the heroism of Alfred Stewart during the war has helped Patrick Stewart learn to deal with his anger towards his father.
When I was growing up, I discovered that my father suffered from a mental illness and still suffers from it today. Like Patrick Stewart, I have struggled to understand my father’s behaviour in my childhood. However, as I began to read about the nature of my father’s illness when I was at university, I began to understand why my father behaved the way he did. Today, it is still a struggle to understand Dad and to communicate with him. However, I persevere on…
The distance I experienced with my father, I experienced it with God too. It has taken me a lifetime to understand God’s love. I need to keep telling myself that God might seem distant at times; but he is there. God still loves me even though I don’t feel he does.
As we approach this Father’s Day, there is something about God as Father that I myself do not understand. As we all know, God is a triune God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In Romans 5:8, it is stated that God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners and enemies with God, God gave up his Son to die for us. We take this for granted as we partake of communion each month. We tell ourselves the bread is Jesus’ body broken for us and the cup is Jesus’ blood shed for us. Yet behind all this is the reality that on the cross, a father lost his son. The cross is more than a demonstration of God’s love. God gives of himself at the cross. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)