Central Idea: We need to accept both the weeds and the wheat of our lives in order to become a full, compassionate person.
This is a true story.
The only memory she had of him was a photograph of the man awkwardly and uncomfortably holding her as a baby at her grandparent’s house. She never found out what prompted him to come and visit that day, nor why he never came and held her again. He may have been told not to come back. He may have chosen not to do so.
On the surface of the story, the woman should have been angry and bitter, after all, her father was about as absentee a father as an absentee father could get. She might have felt abandoned, unwanted and unloved. She should have felt resentful, cheated. Her father could have soured her on life, on family, on men.
The story goes that her mother met him at a Red Cross hospital where she was a social worker shortly after the Second World War. They never lived together and they were probably not married. The woman was only six years old when the man died in 1952. She did not know what he did for a living, if anything at all. She never talked to him, got a letter from him. She never knew the sound of his voice. There were no birthday gifts, Christmas gifts. In fact, there were only two things that she knew for sure about him. First, that he came back from the war a broken, injured man. And two, he named her. There were no words of advice, no little inside jokes between father and daughter, she would walk down the aisle at her wedding by herself. There was to be no father-daughter dance.
And so as I said, you would think that she would be bitter, she would have been angered by what she missed, what she was cheated out of, what she was denied. But she isn’t. If anything she speaks well of her absentee father, her missing dad. She says she would like to believe that he was a good and honest man who did his best with what life had to offer him. She knows that he faced demons, alcohol probably. She knows that the brutality of war destroyed an essential element of his spirit and soul. She wonders what she could have done, if anything, to have helped him.
She did a most remarkable thing, probably the single greatest thing that a human being could do, she found the wheat amongst the weeds.
Our gospel, the parable of the weeds and the wheat, is often interpreted as God allowing evil people to survive amongst the good people. It is a reminder not to be so simplistic so as to think that God will immediately punish the bad people, while blessing those who are good. Sometimes I find this comforting because I am not totally sure what side of that line I land on.
But I think there is another way to look at this story. It is a reminder to us that we need to accept both difficult things, the weeds, along with the good things in our lives, the wheat. If we can do this, like the woman in my story, some amazing things come out. Instead of expecting that life always treat us to a good time, the difficulties, the losses, the derelict fathers of our lives, become opportunities, opportunities to foster compassion for others. Instead of seeing her dad as a loser, she chose to see him as a fully human, fallible being who deserved her understanding, and not her scorn.
I want you to think about the weeds in your lives. Maybe it is a person who is especially difficult and challenging. Maybe it is a situation that is tragic or problematic. Maybe it is a demon that you are dealing with in your life. Instead of seeing them as burdens, instead of becoming bitter and acrimonious, see them as what they can become, openings to grace.
The choice that the woman in the story made, made all the difference in the world. She could have see life quite another way, a way that could have dragged her down. She could have looked out at the field of her heart and seen only weeds, wild, untamed, pointless.
Instead she treasures a father who graced her with her name and held her in his arms… only once.
And that was enough.