Alan Paton’s novel “Cry, the Beloved Country” becomes very personal as it vividly represent the drama of life itself, of love and hate, of fear and greed, and of the power of forgiveness.

Set in South Africa, the novel begins with Reverend Stephen Kumalo preparing to make a journey to Johannesburg. His sister and son Absalom left the village in search of jobs in the city. Not having heard from his son for a long time Kumalo sets out to find him.

In 1940s South Africa the plague of apartheid was the law of the land. Blacks had no rights. Through the novel Paton describes the problems of the time. Almost as good as the book is the movie with James Earl Jones and Richard Harris.

The heart of Paton’s story of a father’s love and forgiveness for his wayward son, has been told and re-told in all forms of literature beginning with Jesus’ Prodigal Son story (which should be called the Story of the Loving Father).

I found in my bookshelves a 1972 book by Robert Raines titled Creative Brooding. The subtitle: Readings to Provoke Thought and Trigger Action.

In the book, filled with brief essays, poems and Scripture, I found the moving thoughts of a father as he bids his son farewell. The son has reached the time to move out and move on.

Here is part of it:

“I see my son wearing long trousers, I tremble at this; I see he goes forward confidently, he does not know so fully his own gentleness.

“Go forward, eager and reverent child, see here I begin to take my hands away from you,

“I shall see you walk careless on the edges of the precipice, but if you wish you shall her no word come out of me;

“My whole soul will be sick with apprehension, but I shall not disobey you.

“Life sees you coming, she sees you come with assurance towards her,

“She lies in wait for you, she cannot but hurt you; Go forward, go forward, I hold the bandages and ointment ready….”

There is nothing more common than seeing off the children when the time comes. You know as a parent much they think they know. You are aware that more difficulties face them than they could ever dream of happening.

But, wisely, you know they must learn the ropes for themselves. They must live their life and you can only pray for them and have the bandages and ointment ready.

Britt Towery is a retired Baptist missionary living in San Angelo, Texas. His column appears every Friday in the Brownwood Bulletin in Brownwood, Texas.

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