My Father’s Book – Fundamentalism to Freedom

I recently finished reading “The Whisper of the River” by Ferrol Sams.

It’s a fabulous story and I recommend it wholeheartedly.  It speaks of a boy becoming a man through his college years.  He grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home and went to a Baptist college, but somehow manages to expand himself beyond the bounds of mindless obedience to religious and moral principles and find a more substantive journey of faith and meaning.  I find my own story in there somewhere.  Perhaps you would too.

However, the enjoyment of the story is not my point today.  I didn’t read it because it caught my eye in a bookstore or in a book review or even because it was recommended by a friend.  It was published 25 years ago and probably doesn’t show up on bookstore shelves any longer and certainly isn’t the hottest new book review.  It has been sitting on my bookshelf for at least ten years.  I have passed over it many times.  And yet it survived many downsizing efforts as I was eliminating unnecessary volumes from my bloated bookshelves.

It survived because my father once told me that it was one of his favorite books and thus it has traveled with me through several moves.  But it remained unread.  My father, who crossed the great divide several years ago, gave me the book.  If my memory is accurate, he gave it to me on a day that I was perusing his bookshelf and asked him about this book.  He said it was a meaningful to him and that I could have the book.  I readily took it, not because I intended to read it right way, but because it was a piece of my father’s story and I could hold it in my hand and join it to my journey.

I don’t know why, but a few weeks ago I was perusing my own bookshelf and came across The Whisper of the River” as I had many times before.  But this time, I released it from it’s location on the bookshelf and let it speak to me.  The journey of Porter Osborne, the main character, paralleled the journey of my father from a fundamentalist family to a man who could think deeply about matters of faith and meaning.  My father eventually became a philosophy professor while Porter became a medical doctor.  But I’m sure my father saw his own story unfolding in those pages.

I enjoyed walking in my father’s story for a while.  And it reminded me that I am sincerely grateful to be a recipient of that story.  Reading Porter’s story, and my father’s story, has reminded me that obedience to a set of behaviors that makes you think that God loves you is an empty pursuit.  But that it is possible to believe that you are loved and accepted and the  “knowing” comes in the search more than in the arrival.

Thank you Dad for reminding me of things that really matter.  I’m honored that you let me carry your book with me on my journey.