When I returned from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Graduate & Faculty Team Meetings, I found my family wanting me 24/7, at least for a few days 😉 In my brief moments of spare time, I picked up Wisdom Chaser: Finding My Father at 14,000 Feet (Nathan Foster. InterVarsity Press. 2010). In Wisdom Chaser, Nathan relates the story of his strained relationship with his famous father, i.e., Richard Foster, academic/teacher and author of several spiritual formation books including Celebration of Discipline. The below excerpt kept me turning the pages to find out how father-son reconciliation occurred through mountain top experiences.
As the years went by, it seemed I [Nathan] saw less and less of my father [Richard] and cared less and less about his absence. At some point I shifted from wanting him to be home, counting down the days to when he would return, and eagerly greeting him at the airport, to not knowing when he was gone or home and caring even less. As a child, I was proud of my dad. Hearing him speak to crowds filled me with excitement; perhaps he would mention my name, or tell a story about me, or in some way acknowledge his home life. At first I think I accepted that God was using my dad to help people. Later I felt mildly ambivalent about the fact that God seemed to need my dad. Somewhere along the way, my feelings shifted to embarrassment and anger that Dad had “holier work” to do. By thirteen I was filled with rage, and I shut down. — Wisdom Chaser: Finding My Father at 14,000 Feet (Nathan Foster. InterVarsity Press. 2010, p.29).
As you may guess there is much more to the story, such as Richard’s experience as a youth with his family, writing habits, founding of Renovare’, slow pace of life/climb … and Nathan’s travels/thoughts through his teens & twenties. Now I’m no Richard or Nathan Foster, but with regard to my own travels and intense focus upon various tasks for ministry in higher education, I found the book convicting.
First responses which I made in my house …
- Included in our family’s dinner devotions the discipline of asking each member of the family the best/worst part of the day
- Began reading Gary Schmidt’s retelling of Pilgrims Progress (Eerdmans Press, 2008) chapter by chapter with the twins before bedtime … seeking to reinstate our sporadic bedtime readings.
- Declined a ministry invitation to preserve a time with family during a stretched summer.
- Cleared time to celebrate my wife Theresa’s birthday (May 6) and fully attend to the family while she runs Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure (Pittsburgh, PA) with her mom.
First response with the Emerging Scholars Network …
Writing this post, which took much longer than I thought it would. Why? Much to talk about with regard to parent-child relationships and higher education (topic of some future posts). And because I took the time to soak in the great video of a recent conversation between Nathan and his father at Spring Arbor University, Spring Arbor, MI. Why was the conversation at Spring Arbor? Because Nathan’s on faculty as an Assistant Professor of Social Work! Refreshing material. I’d encourage you to check out the clips, maybe show them as part of a campus discussion group and pass them along to others whom you think would find them of interest.
PS. Not only has Nathan not given up on following Christ, getting to know his father, serving in higher education, but also he’s not given up on becoming a father himself. Nathan’s married and has two children of his own.
PPS. InterVarsity Press has an excellent Question-Answer author interview (text) posted here.
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!
Guy Chmieleski says
Thanks so much for this insightful post. I have long been a fan of Foster, and so thankful for how God has used his writing in my life, but this clearly brings to light our need for margins in life and making our family the necessary priority it should be.
I look forward to checking out the videos.