There is a small brown paper bag in my office. It has little two handles, made out of a heavy twisted paper. Inside this bag is a little blue plastic box. It contains my father’s ashes. It is just behind me now as I write.


I remember so many things that say; “Dad”, for although Dad’s “final resting place” just so happens to be behind me, I carry him continually in my heart and my mind. Precious memories that will always define fatherhood to me. Magic moments that will always affirm me as his son.

Dad was not the perfect father. In fact my memories of our life together judged him far better than his own. The issue was that he never had to earn the right to be “Dad”, I never had to earn the right to be “son’, our roles were because of relationship. He will always be my father, I will always be his son.


Our first day sailing.

It was Anzac Day 1965. I was nine years old. Dad had just bought our first boat. It was a little sailing dingy, a “Heron”. We arrived at Narabeen Lakes, on the northern beaches of Sydney, with our new boat, new lifejackets and a new hobby, sailing. We arrived with a great amount of enthusiasm, well Dad had the enthusiasm, I was doing my best to be positive, and the expertly prepared picnic lunch that my mother is still famous for. My father’s enthusiasm was matched by our inexperience, and;

It was blowing a gale.

Dad’s rudimentary understanding of sailing consisted of:

“Pull the ropes, son, and the boat with go faster.”

We launched the boat, and pulled the ropes, tight.

The wind blew. We went from a nice comfortable horizontal position, to an uncomfortable near vertical lean, and at great speed. Dad pulled the ropes tighter. The wind caught our sail. The boat leaned over precariously, we both looked at each other, Dad pulled the ropes again, and my next memory was of being catapulted through the air into the capsized mainsail.

Dad and I became experts at righting our capsized Heron long before we learnt how to slacken the ropes.

Dad. Father and son.

Dad had a great knack for judging the depth of any channel that we happened to be sailing in.

He has sold his Heron, built a “Fireball”, a sixteen foot skiff that lived up to it’s name. He and his rather reluctant son spent years practising their capsizing techniques before they both gave up and he bought an old, and I mean antique yacht.

This yacht couldn’t capsize, Dad assured us, no matter “How hard the ropes are pulled, Son!”

This yacht had a keel. Six feet of lead that dared the wind to blow.

This is where Dad’s amazing depth sounding ability came in. The “Heron” and the “Fireball” had a centreboard. It was raised and lowered at will. You ran aground when the water was three inches deep. In other words you had plenty of notice, and you could walk home.

Not so with the antique yacht.

Dad and I spent many pleasant days, watching all the “other” boats sail past our stricken antique. He had only misjudged the depth of the channel by a few inches or so.

Dad never got used to the keel.

I later realised that my father’s colour blindness may have contributed to Dad’s persistent avoidance of the clever little red and green channel markers that he so stubbornly ignored.

Dad sold the antique sand dredge and built his dream yacht. The first piece of equipment that he bought was an electronic depth sounder with a loud alarm.

This wonderful piece of electronics would alert my colour blind father nay time the bottom of the sea mounted a surprise attack on his keel.

The depth sounder never worked!

The very first thing my father and I did on “launch day” in Sydney harbour, was, you guessed it, we went aground!

I was my father’s son. I pulled the ropes when he told me to. I trusted his judgement as we righted our various craft after a multitude of capsizes in a multitude of lakes, waterways, oceans and rivers.

I boiled the water for the many cups of tea that we would drink waiting for the tide to rise as we were stuck fast on the wrong side of the channel marker!

I am now a father.

I now sail my father’s my fathers yacht. I never pull on the ropes in a small gale. I round the marker boys with such a respectful distance that half of the Sydney Hobart fleet could pass between us. My son’s pull the ropes, I still make the tea. Out of respect to my father I have avoided repairing the depth sounder.

I was talking to my eldest son on the weekend.

I was telling him of all the wonderful memories that I have of being his father.

I remember the year that the team that he captained went through the whole season undefeated. Tim was hoisted on the shoulders of his team mates. He held the trophy aloft for all to see; upside down and back to front!

I remember their little un-broken voices singing their war cry. I remember the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes.

I returned with a greater lump a more tears as his team repeated the “miracle” in the next season.

My other son, David, is also a budding Wally Lewis…1/3rd replica!

One day he was passed the ball only metres from his own line. He set off down the field with the whole of the opposing team in full pursuit. He ran like a madman! Actually, I ran like a madman, David ran like an eight year old. He kept on running, the ball under his little arm, his chest pushed out in his “Footy Jumper”, cheered on by his team mates, cheered on by his team mate’s parents, David ran straight over the try line, straight between the goal posts, straight over the dead ball line, until the perimeter fence caught him and he came to a confused and exhausted stop !

He is my son. I am his father.

Fathers. Parents. We watch from the sidelines as our children run onto the field of life. We cheer their victories. We encourage them after their mistakes, their stumbles and falls, to get up and “play the ball”. We run onto the field to offer some welcome advice and a few chapters of “twaddle” at half time and we cheer again as they win, lose or draw. When they get injured we spray them with the “miracle water” that can resurrect the entire Australian Rugby League side. We watch our children as they take our advice, ignore our advice, repeating their mistakes, repeating our mistakes.

I remember their birth, their first smiles, first words, first steps.

I have watched them leave for their first day at pre-school, primary school, Sunday school, high school. I have seen their first attempts at working the pedals of a minute tricycle, I have pulled on the hand brake as they try to work the pedals of the family car.

I have held them in delivery room. I have had to let them go on the footpath outside their home.

I am their father.

They are my children.

As parents we change their nappies well and truly after we have held and hugged them in the morning.

If you are parent, you know the scene well.

We have just been greeted with a small cry of glee as their wide eyed innocence is waiting in anticipation for us to appear at the door of their bedroom. We hold our breath as this cute little septic tank attempts to stand while being weighed down with a nappy that is half way down their knees, already spilling it’s contents of various noxious solids and liquids.

We rejoice at their recognition. We respond to their outstretched arms. We share their smells, absorb their waste as we hold them close.

We worry about the mess later, caught up in the wonderful moment of being a parent.

We are parents. We respond to our love for our children. We respond to our frail and fallen emotions that no one taught us to have. It was in us at their conception, silently growing throughout the nine months of fear, worry and stretch marks. Our little children are never expected to earn this love. It comes for free, naturally. It flows out of the parent’s heart.

If we can feel and experience these emotions as children and then as parents, being so incomplete and inconsistent, our love straining to remain unmerited and unconditional, how much more can we start to understand the love of God that is from a perfect Father’s heart.

We are but a dim reflection of the perfect love of God.

Jesus redefined God to those who had already made up their minds about the definitions. He came to those whose concepts of God had been shaped by cruel and callous misrepresentations. He stood at the door of every broken heart and showed them the compassion, the grace, the mercy and the love of their “Heavenly Father.”

Jesus waited, in the middle of the day at a hot a dusty well side in Sychar, Samaria, for a woman, outside the promises of Israel. A failure. A broken down life that still fought to maintain it’s excuses, justifications and denials. He cut through the smokescreen and the defences and found her heart. He redefined God to her.

“…. You will worship the father….for they are the worshippers that the father seeks..”

God was seeking her to be his child. A child that would be forever fathered by the perfect love of God.

What were the thoughts that went through this woman’s mind as Jesus made this outrageous statement.

All of a sudden God exploded out of the chains that had held him bound in her mind. No longer was he the sole property of a faith that excluded her. Suddenly he was “her God”. Her Father.

Down through the ages man has stolen God from his children. We have barred the door into the nurseries from the inside. Mankind has continually misrepresented God to such an extent that eventually, his children don’t recognise him at all.

Jesus came at such cost to unveil the heart of God to his children. A heart that, like any father, felt their pain, saw their consequences and wanted to help. Jesus came to reveal God in such a way that his children could never feel alienated and alone again. They had an indelible illustration of the unconditionality of his acceptance, love and forgiveness. Somehow, we took this “unveiling”, and sewed up the curtain until the “inner room”, the Holy of Holies” was barred to the unworthy. We “stole” the father’s heart and replaced it with the heart of a rigid referee.

No longer can we wait in our cot’s for our father to come and embrace us in our mess. We now have to clean ourselves, learn to walk and wait for God to come out of his remoteness, responding to our best abilities to “be good”.

Meanwhile the hurt and the messed up give up. They despair of ever seeing the father’s smile again.

One child’s misrepresentations judges the other children’s hope as unworthy. The judges feel empowered, the judged feel excluded. Look at history. Look at how the children are separated from their father by the actions and words of the “rightful heirs”.

We all want to own God and then command the “other illegitimates” to confess their errors and come into the “true family”, the “true family” being the clubs of our own agreement and affirmation. The Kingdom of God become the kingdoms of man. The entrance into these kingdoms is according to accepted rights of behaviour, beliefs and affirmation.

We do it in his name, and like those of Jesus day, the rightful heirs of generations prove their frailty and their own illegitimacy.

Jesus says to this woman, who by any stretch of imagination is beyond hope or redemption, there is hope and there is redemption. It doesn’t come from earning the rights of the children, or even being the “right child”, this hope and redemption comes from the understanding of the father heart of God.

This hope had been snatched out her heart by the religion that was to offer it in His name. She was now confronted with that hope as it came in Jesus, personally.

Jesus now took her first excuse and put it to one side. She couldn’t blame religion for her “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” for Jesus now revealed God to her as a father who would meet with her outside the confines of religion.

This challenges us in two ways.

As broken and sinful children we cannot turn our back on God because of the sins of those who are seen to represent him. God is able to reach us outside their influence. At this point we must chose to trust him, allowing him to lead us back to join our brothers and sisters. Along the way we will begin to be repentant and accountable for our own mistakes. Maturity will arrive as we begin to be humbled by our old excuses, justifications and denials.

We also must be challenged that as broken and sinful children, learning wholeness and humility, we cannot turn our back on our “brothers and sisters” just because they do not appear to be part of the family. We must trust our father to lead us all to the point where we are humbled by our own capacity to judge. We must begin our “missionary journey” to these hurting outcasts. We must follow Jesus to sit by their wells, allowing him to offer through us grace, mercy, truth and love.

If we could be honest, perhaps we could see all of mankind in a collective cot, soggy soiled nappies around our knees, pretending maturity, but desperate to be changed and cleaned, by desperately proving ourselves worthy, even if that mean proving the “other” unworthy.. If we could only see that we are incapable of changing ourselves.

When we come to this, all the children can wait together, and, those, who, up till now, have been told to stand at the back of the cot, can stand alongside us, as we all wait eagerly for our Father.

The woman by well wouldn’t dare expect hope from Jesus. Why?

The God of Israel had rejected her. She hadn’t even had a hearing. She was rejected like so many purely on the basis of race and religion.

To this day the sins go on.

If we are to worship the Father, if we respond to his searching of us, then we must become as little children and not fight amongst ourselves. He has other children that are his because he is their father. We cannot presume to challenge God’s rights to be the Father of us all. We must let the father come and father his children his way. We must learn to refuse the role of “Doorkeepers”.

Jesus revelation of the father heart of God, a major redefinition of God, was a major stumbling block to the Jews. It demanded that they cease to be judges, rulers, the chosen people, a spiritual elite. It compelled them to become children again, and, with child like faith and innocence realise that in seeking to become teachers, they had lost sight of whom their teachings revealed.

This is still the stumbling block. In becoming children again, we must remove our pedestals and powers. We are all humbled as we return to the crib.

Then perhaps we can begin to worship the father.

If not, we will begin to worship our own interpretations until we refuse to recognise him again.

We will then refuse to hear the cries of our brothers and sisters.

“A time is coming and now has come when the true worshippers will worship the Father….. for they are the kind of worshippers the father seeks.”

geoff b



Copyright © Geoff Bullock 2008