I remember that scene at the conclusion of the movie Field of Dreams where Ray and his dad finally get to go out and "have a catch." The impression of that scene is that mounds of healing will take place as a ball is thrown from son to dad and back again. With each connection of rawhide to glove, sins are forgiven, amends made, the past healed one throw at a time.
My son had a hard moment yesterday when something didn't go the way he wanted. I could describe it, but it's really his story and one day I feel he will make of himself a writer far beyond my skills, so I'll leave those details for him. But I can tell you mine.
After the incident, I couldn't find him. I went outside and he was milling around the garage, not quite sure what to do with his frustration, disappointment, even anger. Dear God, how many times have I not known what to do with those emotions; in fact, sometimes I still don't. He walked over to his baseball glove and said, "Dad, would you play catch with me?" Most questions in my life these days, I do not have answers for. That one, however, got a quick response. "Sure. Let's go."
We didn't wander out in a corn field and throw while the sun baked the side of a rustic barn and our golden hair swooshed in the wind and Randy Newman music filled the spaces between oak branches. No, we just walked out in the street and threw a ball back and forth while the sun slowly submitted to the majesty of the Front Range and our hair stuck out of caps we both had on and the soundtrack for our time was the voices of neighborhood children. "Here comes a fly ball." "O.k." "Now, a grounder." "Got it." "Keep your eyes on the target. When you look away, that's where your throw will go." "I'll try." "Great throw!" "Yeah, I think I'm getting better."
This metronomic grace of pitching and catching between a father and his son went on until dinner was ready. We went in and joined the rhythm of a domestic Saturday night. Later that evening, as I prayed over my son and kissed him goodnight, he said, "Dad?" "Yeah, bud?" "Thanks for playing catch with me. It helped me work out my stress. It's still there, but that helped alot." "You bet, man." Most days, I feel like I constantly miss the ball of fathering. But sometimes, I make a decent catch.
You know, we didn't talk about his disappointment as we threw the ball to each other. We didn't verbally process the incident, sit in a circle, hold hands or any of those things usually sought out as steps to working out your stuff. I started to tell him that it's not good for the sun to go down on your anger, but I didn't. Maybe it's not good for the sun to go down without fathers and sons "having a catch." For in this somewhat ancient and simple act, wounds are healed. Sins are forgiven, both of omission and commission. And our stress, whatever that looks or feels like, is worked out, if just a little. And we're able to return to home and family a little better, a little easier, a little more like the boys and men we hope to be. Maybe playing catch is an act of framing and building something, a structure for healing. And if we build it, grace will come.
I'm sure there's still some frustration residue from that incident which will find it's way into our day today. But the gloves are nearby...and the sun's just rising.