作為一個小學老師的收入養育四個孩子並不是一件容易的事，所以放學後，我父親忙著幫學生在我家補習。因此我們之間沒有太多的時間對話。我記得和父親常有的兩個對話。第一個是他叫我“去買煙”。由於生活的壓力，他的煙癮很大，這常常是他與我母親爭吵的導火線。我知道在哪裡購買以及什麼樣的香煙 – 長壽煙。我們的第二個談話是他叫我“去買藥”，當他和我媽媽吵架時，他常會偏頭痛，我也知道在哪裡買什麼藥。當我上大學給家裡打電話的時候，如果是他接，他會馬上把電話傳給我媽媽。我們的關係似乎只有好像朱自清的著名散文作品《背影 》- 背對背。
後來，我們搬進了自己的家，更寬敞，環境也更適合接待我的父母。 此後八年的每個夏天，他們都會在暑假期間和我們住在一起，我請父親為我的年幼女兒們辦“夏令營”，因為他是一名老師。 我從沒見過他這麼開心； 回到家看到父親與女兒們如此愉快地互動，對我來說是最有意義和最美麗的畫面。 他教他們中國書法、中國象棋、繪畫，以及如何玩一些紙牌遊戲。 他會故意“欺騙”他們，逗他們笑。
我和父親的關係慢慢有所改善。 我會請他分享他的童年故事，將我的孩子無法理解的部分翻譯成英文。 我開始了解我的父親我們也開始轉向 – 面對面。 第一次，我開始認識到他在生活中所經歷的掙扎，了解到他是如何成為一名基督徒的。 雖然他沒有太多的時間去教會，但他把畢生精力都放在了撫養四個孩子上，甚至放棄了自己寶貴的少量退休金，讓哥哥來美國讀書。
2004年，我組織了一次全家團聚，邀請我的父母、兩個姐姐和哥哥全家在我紐約的家中團聚。 我們四兄弟姐妹秘密計劃全家團在家庭崇拜時要對我們小時候受的氣向我們的父親“討回公道 – 多麼狡猾的基督徒方式！
我馬上打電話給我的兄弟姐妹改變計劃。書中談到雅各祝福他的孩子，所以我請我父親看看他可否為他的四個孩子祝福並寫下來，當時我的父母已提早到了我家。令我驚訝的是，他非常高興地接受了這個請求。雖然他是基督徒，但和大多數的基督徒父親一樣，他在家很少談論屬靈的話題。幾天后，我注意到我書房裡的聖經和有關禱告的書籍不見了。我母親告訴我，我的父親準備到凌晨 1 , 2 點。家庭崇拜終於到了，我父親拿出他辛勤準備的禱告文為我們四個人祈禱。在我的生活中，我從來沒有夢想過有這麼一天。這對我的家人來說是一次屬靈上的轉捩點。從那以後我每次打回台灣他都會用英文直接回答（他知道我什麼時候打）——“My Good Son 我的好兒子”。父親的祝福對孩子來說是最大的肯定。這讓我想起我們的天父有幾次公開的對耶穌說：“你是我的愛子。”
一年夏天，我為我們英文堂的年輕人和父母組織了一次家庭退修會。 我也特別邀我父母參加, 令我驚訝的是，退修會場地的主人和我上同一所小學，她認出了我的父親，熱情地接待父親令他非常高興。 每場我把講員英語的信息翻譯給我的父母。 當我們回到家時，我父親對我說：“現在我知道你在為家庭所做的事工以及你所做事情背後的原因！” 對一個人來說，沒有比他的父親了解他的心更大的回報了！
又是一個夏天，我父母來看望我，有一次我父親在屋外人行道邊抽煙。 看到他一個人，我藉此機會湊進他的二手煙與他交談。 我鼓起勇氣問他：“爸爸，你有沒有想過要戒菸？” 那一刻，我感到父親對我敞開心扉，回答說：“兒子，我在很多場合都決定要戒菸，但每次你媽媽都惹我生氣，我就心煩意亂，又開始抽煙。 ！” 但是在那次談話之後的那個冬天，我父親開始咳嗽，結果最終奇蹟般地戒掉了整整 50 年的煙癮！ 讚美歸於上帝！ 我們越來越接近“心連心”的聯繫。
那天晚上，在我父母家（也是我兒時的家）待了一段時間後，我和父親一起走向短宣隊和我住的地方。 父親很高興，就好像我們剛剛打完一場美好的仗似的。 我老家高雄的主要街道很寬，所以我告訴父親，我自己繼續走； 他不需要穿過十字路口。 穿過馬路後，我轉身向父親揮手，我永遠不會忘記看到他對我微笑的臉龐。 那一刻，我彷彿看到了天父上帝的臉，也在對我微笑。
2016年，我年邁的父親健康狀況突然惡化，雖然他一直都還蠻健康。 可悲的是，我右眼的視網膜脫離手術使我從他住院到他最終回天家離時都無法回去看他起。 但我很感激能及時回來參加他的追思禮拜，並在會中分享了我和父親的旅程：從背到背，然後面對面，最後終於心連心。
是的，家家都有一本很難念的經，尤其是華人家庭，但在上帝的幫助下，我們可以把這本難念的經書變成一首讚美之歌——它從父親的心轉向兒女 ， 兒女的心轉向父親開始。願我們在我們的家中開始和諧與祝福的循環 – 因爲在神凡事都能！
06.19.2022 父親節寫於 North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, NY
While I was a boy growing up in Taiwan, my father was an elementary school teacher, and he was also the one in charge of discipline for the entire student body. Whenever he called “Attention!” during school assembly, none of the students dared to move. From this, you can get an idea of what my father’s disposition at home was.
When I was young, my parents quarreled often. My mother would often complain to my father, “You don’t know how to be a father!”. Without hesitation, my father would respond, “Of course I don’t, because I lost my own father when I was only six years old!” My grandmother had originally been a maid in the household. After my grandfather passed away, my father was oppressed by the first wife’s eldest son who was now in charge. Even though at the time the family was considered well off, the eldest brother refused to pay for my father’s college tuition. As a result, my father went to a teachers’ training school for which the tuition was free.
Back then, it was not easy for an elementary school teacher to raise four children on one income, so after school my father had a never-ending stream of students coming into our home for extra tutoring. There was not much conversation between us. I recalled we had basically only two topics of “conversation”. The first regarded my father’s request for me to “buy a pack of cigarettes”. Due to the daily pressures of life, my father was a heavy smoker, and that was often the trigger for a quarrel between him with my mother. I knew exactly where to go and what kind of cigarette to buy. (The brand name, ironically, was “Long Life”!) The second topic had to do with my father’s request to “buy medicine”. After quarreling with my mother, my father would invariably be left with a throbbing headache. So, similarly, I knew exactly where to go and what kind of medicine to buy!
When I attended college out of town and called home, if he picked up the phone, my father would immediately say, “Your mother is here!” and he would pass the phone to her. Our relationship at that time was “back to back”, to borrow a term from the famous Chinese work of literature, “Shadow of the Father”.
Later, when I went to America for graduate studies, got married and had my own family, I made an effort to try to connect more closely with my father. The first time my parents came to visit me was a disaster; at that time, my wife and I and our infant daughter only lived in a small, one-bedroom apartment. (I am thankful my wife still welcomed my parents to come.)
Later, we moved into our own home which was more spacious, and the setting was much better for hosting my parents. Every summer thereafter for eight years they came to stay with us during the summers, and I would ask my father to run a “summer camp” for my young daughters since he had been a teacher. I had never seen him so happy; it was the most rewarding and beautiful picture for me to come home and see my father interacting so joyfully with my daughters. He taught them Chinese calligraphy, Chinese chess, painting, and how to play some card games. He would purposely tease them and make them laugh.
The relationship between my father and I improved. I would ask him to share his childrenhood story, translating into English any parts not understandable to my children. I started to get to know my father better; now our relationship was “face to face”. For the first time, I started to recognize the struggles he had gone through in his life and learned more clearly how he had become a Christian. Though he did not have much time to attend church, he dedicated his life to raising up his four children and even gave up his small amount of precious retirement money for my brother to come to study in America.
In 2004, I organized a family reunion and invited my parents, two sisters, and my brother to gather at my home in NY. Despite my improved relationship with my father, my siblings and I had a “secret plot” to “get back” at our father for all the childhood hurts we felt he had caused. We planned to do this during a time of family worship on a Saturday evening. What a crafty “Christian” plan!
But God intervened in an amazing way.
Back then, my church worshiped at a hotel, and every Sunday I needed to move the equipment back to the storage area. The Sunday right before the reunion, as I was moving a portable bookshelf, I noticed a book lying flat on top of the others and not placed properly. When I picked up the book, I was shocked to see the title: Honoring Your Parents Brings Blessings! I took the book home with me, and as I read it, the Holy Spirit convicted me and I was cut to the heart.
God communicated to me that I should honor my father simply because he was my father! It was wrong of me if I did otherwise. I called my siblings right away to change our “plan”. The book I had read spoke about Jacob and how he had blessed his children one by one, so I would ask my father if he would pray for each of his children and even write the blessings down on paper as a keepsake. My parents arrived at my home a few days before my siblings did, so I was able to speak to him about the idea before their arrival. To my surprise my father enthusiastically accepted my request! (Although he was a Christian, perhaps like many other Christian men, he did not usually say much at home on spiritual matters.)
A few days later, I noticed that my Bible, as well as several books about prayer, had disappeared from my study room! My mother told me that my father had been diligently working on the prayers of blessing each night until 1 or 2 am!
The day of the family reunion worship time finally arrived and my father took out his carefully written-out prayers and indeed did pray for each one of us. I had never in my life even dreamed of this happening! The event was a spiritual breakthrough for my family.
After that, whenever I would call my parents in Taiwan from America, my father would pick up the phone and answer immediately (- he knew exactly when I would call -) using a few English words he had purposely learned: “My good son!” This touched my heart. There is not a greater encouragement for a child to hear than to receive a father’s blessing. I am reminded that even our heavenly Father declared in a clear voice to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son”!
Another summer while my parents were visiting us in America, I organized a family retreat for our church youth and their parents. To my surprise, it turned out that the owner of the retreat site had attended the same elementary school in Taiwan as I had, and she even recognized my father as Teacher Zheng! My father felt very honored. The retreat speaker we had invited was English-speaking, so I simultaneously translated the messages to Mandarin for them. When we arrived home, my father said to me, “Now I know what you are doing for families and the reason behind what you are doing!” Truly there is no greater reward for a person than that his father knows his heart!
Still another summer when my parents came to visit, once my father was smoking outside the house by the sidewalk. Seeing him alone, I took the opportunity to talk to him, knowing that, as I did so, I would be breathing in his second-hand smoke. I took the courage to ask him, “Baba, have you ever thought to quit smoking?” At that divinely-appointed moment, I felt my father open his heart to me as he answered, “Son, I had decided on numerous occasions to quit smoking, but every time your mother made me angry again, I got upset and started smoking again!” But the very winter after that conversation, my father developed a cough and as a result finally and miraculously quit smoking “cold turkey” – after a full 50 years of heavy smoking! Praise be to God! We were moving closer and closer to relating “heart to heart”.
Gradually, as my parents aged, it became my family’s turn to fly back to visit them.
One year I wanted to especially bring honor to my father at the church my parents had been attending for decades. I reached out to the church leaders to see if it would be possible for me to share one Sunday along with a short-term mission group from America I would be bringing. Before I was directly told of the leaders’ decision, my father called me and said the senior pastor had told him about my coming to share. I could sense that my father felt happy and proud of me. Later, when changes were proposed regarding the arrangements, my father strongly pressed for having the original plans set in place. I had never in my life seen my father so upset and “fighting” for me. He reached out to the one elder who personally knew my family in order to “lobby” for me. It turned out that I was asked to preach twice in Taiwanese and once in Mandarin. I thank God for having allowed me the precious opportunity to honor my parents at their church; they stood three times to be recognized as my parents.
That evening, after some time at my parents’ home (also my childhood home), my father and I walked together towards the place the missions group and I were staying. My father was so happy, as if we had just finished fighting a good battle. The main streets in my hometown, Kaohsiung, are very wide, so I told my father that I would continue on by myself; he would not need to cross the intersection. After I crossed to the other side, I turned around to wave to my father, and I will never forget the sight of his face, smiling deeply at me. At that very moment it was as if I saw the face of God, my Heavenly Father, smiling at me as well.
In 2016, my aging father found his health deteriorating very quickly, when all along he had been in relatively good health. Sadly, retinal detachment surgery in my right eye prevented me from being with him from the time he was in the hospital until he finally left the earth. I was thankful to be well enough to participate in his memorial service in which I shared memories about my father: how our relationship had gone from “back to back” to “face to face”, and now finally was “heart to heart”.
Yes, “every family has its own difficult book to read” (as the popular Chinese saying goes), but with God’s help we can turn the “difficult book” into a song of praise – and it starts with fathers turning their hearts to their children and children turning their hearts to their fathers. May we begin this cycle of harmony and blessing in our families. All things are possible – with God!
Written 06.19.2022 at North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, NY on Father’s Day.