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On Father's Day -- Learning to Let Go of the Atticus Finch Gold Standard

Every year on Father’s Day I watch the movie, "To Kill a Mockingbird." As a young dad it was an agonizing exercise.
The character Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck, is the perfect father. He’s strong, a pillar of courage, brimming with dignity, yet a gentle and attentive single parent to his two children.

If that weren’t enough Atticus always knows what to say at precisely the right moment.

“Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand,” he says to his 10 year-old son Jem. “It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

Ever come up with a pearl of wisdom like that while driving a mini-van crammed with screaming and hygienically challenged boys to a Little League game? I think not.

This year things are different. I turned 50 and I’ve learned to watch "To Kill a Mockingbird" without judging my performance as a father against the Atticus Finch Gold Standard.

For me fatherhood isn’t about perfection anymore. Fatherhood is about remembering the promise I whispered in a delivery room to God and myself as I watched each of my three children come into the world, that I would love them and their mother with everything I could muster, and as Atticus said, see it through no matter what. Most of all fatherhood for me is about asking God every morning before my feet hit the floor to supply me with the grace to keep that promise for another twenty-four hours.

It reminds me of a fatherhood moment a few years back with my son in Vermont. It is about one of those blessed days when you realize just how glorious and sacred the vocation of fatherhood really is, even if you aren’t Atticus Finch.

In 1735, an enterprising New Englander named Isaac Underhill opened the first marble quarry in the United States. It’s nestled on Route 30 in Dorset, Vermont, two miles from our summer home. Before it shut down operations in 1917, it provided the marble that was used to build the New York Public Library, the Harvard Medical School, the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, and other equally impressive places. After the quarry was abandoned, it filled up with cold, spring-fed water and became the world’s finest swimming hole, bar none. Did I mention that it’s cold? You have no idea how far a man’s testicles can recede into his body until you have jumped into the Dorset Quarry. Mine once retreated behind my pancreas and refused to come down until I promised them I would never go into the quarry again, unless I did so gradually and with ample warning.

On a hot day, the quarry is like a “Where’s Waldo” poster. All of humanity is on display. I have seen hundreds of people wandering the grounds at the same time—boarding-school kids wearing J. Crew swim trunks and Vineyard Vine polo shirts; men with no front teeth throwing back Bud Lights and hugging their cackling girlfriends, who wear cutoff jeans and smoke Newports; local toughies with more tattoos on their bodies than a passel of Hindu gods; grandmas in stretch pants and flip-flops, sitting in old beach chairs with bent aluminum frames, telling their blue-lipped grandchildren to come and wrap themselves in towels; and stick-skinny kids whose complexions are so white you can almost see their central nervous systems with the naked eye. Every so often a group of adults with Down Syndrome come and sit on the grass to eat PB&Js for lunch, getting grape jelly all over their faces. Packs of cyclists from Europe in yellow and-black spandex biking outfits stop to cool off before they continue on their cross country trek, and a few African- American Fresh Air Fund kids from the Bronx stand at a distance and wonder how in the world they ended up spending their summer break in the second-whitest state in the country. Heck, I once saw a group of Buddhist monks from Tibet wearing maroon robes, sitting and cooling their feet along the bank of the oblong-shaped quarry.

U.C. Berkeley can’t rival this kind of diversity.

The only place to sit and watch the goings-on is a small grassy knoll on which giant slabs of white marble lay willy-nilly on the grass. Some are freestanding, and some are sloppily stacked on each other, like the artist Andy Goldsworthy and a group of drunk trolls placed them there. Otherwise the water is surrounded by an almost uninterrupted white-and-gray marble wall that changes heights depending on where you are on the perimeter. The owner of the nearly two-hundred-year-old Dorset Union General Store told me that that the water is eighty feet deep in the center. Well-worn paths wind all the way around the edge of the wall, making it possible for you to get to the different heighted ledges from which you can leap into the water.

The first time we went to the quarry, my daughters, Cailey and Maddie, were fourteen and eleven, and my son, Aidan, was eight. I worry about my kids. A lot. They have an incredible mother who was raised in a pretty normal family (whatever that means). Anne has a sense of what she’s doing with kids and making a family. She knows when kids need to get to dentists and doctors, when she needs to go down to the local rec center to sign them up for soccer, and what level of propulsive bleeding warrants a trip to the emergency room. Their father, on the other hand, learned about responsible parenting from watching Modern Family and from the occasional reruns of "Eight Is Enough" on late-night cable.

Our first summer in Vermont, the focus of my anxiety was my son, Aidan. He seemed so fearful and uncertain. Like me at eight, he was small and not very athletic. We once signed him to play in a little-kid soccer league when he was five. 

Instead of jumping into the fray and chasing the ball in one of those huge amoeba-shaped scrums that five-year-olds form when playing soccer, he stood in the middle of the field, holding the coach’s hand and sucking his thumb. If he did play, he would sometimes stop altogether and begin looking up at the sky and the wind blowing through the trees like he was having a mystical religious experience. 

My self-referential narcissism told me that this was all a sign of my utter failure as a dad. The problem with growing up with a crappy father is that it makes you neurotic as heck about raising your own kids. I have no model of what a father is supposed to do or be. I had the anti-father. How can I give something to a son that I myself never received? 

I want my son to know how to be in the world; how to love himself; how not to settle for too little; how to walk with God with humility, compassion, and a heart that makes room for everybody; how to never hide his true self because he’s afraid. In other words, I want to give him an absolutely perfect childhood.

Is that too much to ask?

Whenever I make a mistake with him or my daughters, I excoriate myself. One time I got stuck in traffic and missed one of Aidan’s choral concerts. Guilt oozed from every orifice. I apolo - gized so many times he finally told me to shut up. 

He was six.

To complicate matters, he has untraditional parents. I love fourteenth-century choral music and poetry. I don’t know the rules to football or baseball and couldn’t care less about having a television so I can sit on the couch and watch ESPN on Saturdays. I tried golf once but broke a car windshield in the country club parking lot driving off the first tee.

My wife, on the other hand, was, in high school and college, a downhill ski racer and a star in lacrosse, soccer, and field hockey. She runs marathons and at forty-six still has six-pack abs. What makes it worse is that she is genuinely humble about it. Jealous twenty-five year olds have keyed her car in the fitness club parking lot. Do I do the “dad thing” and coach my son’s teams? No, my wife does. I bring orange wedges, juice packs, and a well-highlighted copy of "Soccer for Dummies." Shame, shame, so much shame.

Our family made our first visit to the quarry on a hot Fourth of July. The place was packed. So many people were jumping into the water from all the different ledges that it looked like lemmings committing suicide en masse. All the locals know that there are four jumps at the quarry—the ten-footer, the eighteen-footer, the twenty-three-footer, and the mother of all jumps, “the Forty.” There is also a three-foot jump that no one bothered to name until my son Aidan drew people’s attention to it. Until then it had simply been a few rocks one stepped on when approaching the water.

“Dad, I want to jump in, but my instincts won’t let me,” Aidan said, standing on the recently named three footer.

I nearly burst out laughing. “Aidan, jumping off your bed would be more dangerous, and you do that all the time. Just jump,” I said, standing in the water up to my waist.

“What if there are snapping turtles or big fish down there?” he asked, peering over the side and shivering.
“Then they’ll bite you,” his sister Cailey said, frowning impatiently.

I gave her the death-ray look. “Thanks, Cailey. That’s really helpful.” I turned back to Aidan. “Buddy, Dad will be standing right here in the water when you jump in. Nothing bad is going to happen to you.”

An hour later I was still standing in the freezing water.

My testicles were very, very angry.

Maddie and Cailey are more like their mom. I once had to beg Anne not to bungee jump off the bridge over Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

“Honey, this is 365 feet,” I pleaded, looking over the side while she counted her money to pay for the jump.

“It’ll be awesome,” she said.

“Listen, Anne,” I said, taking her by the shoulders and looking into her eyes. “My parenting skills are only slightly better than Nicholas Cage’s in Raising Arizona. If you get killed and I have to raise our kids alone, they’ll all end up as ax murderers.”

She relented.

Like their mom, Maddie and Cailey are fearless. They would jump into the quarry even if it didn’t have water in it. The cool thing is that my kids really love each other. Yes, there are the periodic battles over who would get what if Mom and I died, but on the whole they are tight. Maddie and Cailey worked for hours with Aidan, trying to get him to make this three-foot jump into the water. I eventually wandered off to read a copy of The Drama of the Gifted Child so I could figure out where I had failed him.

After nearly a full day at the quarry, Aidan still hadn’t jumped, and he was crestfallen. Finally his sisters, his mom, and I all got into the water and formed the equivalent of one of those booms they use to contain oil spills around the place where he would splash down. The only way he could have gotten hurt is if all four of us had simultaneously died of heart attacks while he was in midair. With only moments to spare before we went home, he closed his eyes and leaped. The muscles in his neck were so taut that they could have snapped. It was not a bold, joyous, or soaring leap—it was more like he slithered down the side of the rocks—but we called it a jump and cheered like he had performed a perfect triple-gainer at the Olympics. Even a few grandmothers in beach chairs held up their bottles of Snapple iced tea with NASCAR foam holders and cried, “Way to go, kid!”

On the ride home, Aidan couldn’t stop talking about coming back the next day so he could jump off the ten-footer.
“Thank you, Jesus,” I whispered under my breath.

The next morning Aidan jumped into our bed in his damp bathing suit and insisted we get up so we could go to the quarry. I told him that we should wait until it was light out. By the time breakfast was finished, the weather was as beautiful as it had been the day before. We packed our lunch, leashed our Portuguese water dog Hobbes, and got to the quarry by 9 a.m.

This time it only took Aidan a few minutes to make the threefoot jump into the water, which he did several dozen times to be sure he really had it down. There was only one condition: I had to be close by when he jumped.

“I think I’m ready for the ten-footer,” he announced.

“Are you sure?” I asked. My wife glared at me. This response wasn’t a confidence builder.

The five of us swam across the quarry and scrambled up the marble wall to the ten-footer. Anne jumped. Cailey jumped. Maddie jumped. Aidan stood on the ledge and quaked.

“Dad, you have to go in and wait for me at the bottom. I won’t jump unless you do,” he said.

“Okay, I’ll be waiting for you,” I said, leaping in.

There was a line of kids behind Aidan, waiting for him to jump. So he let a few others go ahead of him while I treaded water, waiting for him to leap.

“Aidan, Dad can’t do this forever,” I said through chattering teeth.

This time Aidan didn’t close his eyes, nor did he limply dribble down the side of the wall halfheartedly. He made a full-blown jump, a screaming, leg-pedaling, arm-flailing jump. When he came up, he was more than a little pleased with himself.

“Woo-hoo!” we all yelled.

“Aidan, are you ready for the eighteen-footer?” Maddie asked.

“Skip the eighteener. Let’s go to the twenty-three-footer!” he said like a man filled with a double dose of the Holy Ghost. When we arrived at the twenty-three-foot ledge, however, Aidan’s courage quotient diminished significantly. So did mine. Jump ing twenty-three feet sounds doable in the abstract. Heck, my adjoining living room and dining room are twenty-three feet long. Of course, I have never stood them on end and jumped off them. Even my daredevils Maddie and Cailey were hesitant at first. Their mother was the one who broke the impasse. She walked over to the ledge and without fanfare performed a full forward flip and finished with a headfirst dive. This inspired her daughters to jump in after her. I vowed to key her car.

Aidan was biting his nails. Half his hand was in his mouth. “Dad, you jump and wait for me at the bottom,” he said.

If my wife hadn’t smacked me down by performing this perfect flip in front of my kids and half of Vermont, I might have opted out, but I had to jump just to save face. So off I went. Maddie, Cailey, Anne, and I treaded water and waited for Aidan. 

He wasn’t the only person thinking twice about the wisdom of jumping the twenty-three-footer. People of all ages were mulling around, eyes furrowed and pacing. My favorites are the guys who tell people they’ve done it a million times before, but “just don’t feel like it today.” 

Then there are the kids who announce that this time they are going to do it for sure. They lurch forward but at the last second pull back and scream, “I can’t do it.” Then their brother or sister comes up and says, “Let’s hold hands, count to three, and do it together.” Sometimes this strategy works, but more often than not the kindly sister or brother ends up betrayed. They count to three and leap, but Judas shakes his hand free and doesn’t jump. I feared Aidan would end up in this camp. He had been afraid to jump three feet the day before; where on earth would he find the courage to jump
twenty-three feet only one day later?

Aidan pulled away from the ledge and disappeared. I thought he was tossing in the towel.

Hey, the kid is eight years old, and this is twenty-three feet. He should be proud of jumping the ten-footer, I told myself. Just because there are eight-year-old girls jumping off the twenty-threefooter doesn’t mean he’s a failure. It doesn’t mean that a mob of angry child psychologists should stone me to death for being a loser as a father. Just as I was wondering if my Greenwich, Conn. therapist could do a phone appointment with me, I looked up. I found out why he had disappeared. He had decided to make a running start before jumping. Aidan came off that ledge like Evel Knievel flying his motorcycle across the Snake River Canyon. He screamed triumphantly all the way down. Or at least he screamed.

As we pulled ourselves out of the water to go off the twentythree-footer again, Maddie asked, “Dad, can we do the Forty?”

I looked across the quarry at the Forty. Just looking at it gave me that lower intestinal cramp feeling. “Not on my watch,” I said.

“But Dad—”

“Not another word, Maddie. Besides, it’s time to go home,” I lied, diving in to head back to shore.
I thought the conversation about jumping the Forty was behind us. Until Anne and I were doing the dishes that night.
“Honey, you should let the kids jump the Forty,” she said.

This suggestion came out of left field. I hung the dish towel over my shoulder, crossed my arms, and leaned against the counter, watching her wipe down the countertop and rinse out the sink.

“Not a prayer,” I said, finally.

“Why not?” she asked, turning her attention to scrubbing off something stuck to the stovetop.

I sighed and ran both my hands through my hair. “I don’t know. Maybe they can do it next year when they’re a little bigger. Jumping twenty-three feet is plenty of accomplishment for one summer.”

Anne stared at me. “Ian, what’s really going on here?”

I tossed my dish towel onto the counter.

“Look, kids get hurt doing crap like this; that’s what’s going on here. Forty feet is a long way to fall,” I said.

Anne’s face softened, and she placed her hand on my cheek. “Ian, they’re not falling; they’re jumping.”

I had trouble sleeping that night. I couldn’t help thinking about what Anne had said about the difference between the kids jumping and falling. My childhood had been an emotional and spiritual free fall. Often there was no net, no soft landing in the water with a parent waiting, and I got hurt. Some of that hurt came at the hands of others who should have known better, and some of it came because I made my own self-destructive mistakes. Regardless, I didn’t want my kids to know what it meant to fall from a cliff or from anything else, for that matter.

Ever.

But Anne was right. There is a big difference in life between a jump and a fall. A jump is about courage and faith, something the world is in short supply of these days. A fall is, well, a fall. Maybe I was supposed to teach Maddie, Aidan, and Cailey about how to do both well. Maybe that’s what parents do. Still, I wasn’t sure I could let them jump the Forty. Waiting till next summer seemed the more responsible thing to do.

I had hoped for rain the next day so we could hang out at the Dorset Library and read instead of going to the quarry. Unfortunately, it was another perfect day. God and my wife were conspiring against me.

We hadn’t been at the quarry long before we had already made our jumps off the ten- and twenty-three-footers. I knew what was coming.

“Dad, please let’s jump off the big one,” Maddie said, pointing to a group of college boys wending their way down the brushy path to the Forty. Maddie is my mellow, go-with-the-flow middle child. The problem is, she doesn’t believe in mortality.

“Maddie Cron, this is the tenth time you’ve asked me if you can jump off the Forty, and I’ve told you I’m not comfortable with it. I told Mom last night you can do it next year.”

Maddie put her hands on her hips and stuck out her lower lip. “Why not?” she asked.

“Because I don’t want to push you around in a wheelchair for the rest of your life, that’s why,” I said. I’m not Jewish, but I am the archetypal hovering Jewish father. I make Woody Allen look like a wingsuit diver.

Maddie rolled her eyes and looked at the line of tan, shirtless boys in cutoffs walking through the brush like extras from the movie The Last of the Mohicans. She was itching to join them.

“Can’t we at least go see it?” she asked, twirling the ends of her hair with her fingers. She all but batted her eyes. I have seen her pull this I’m intolerably cute, so do whatever I ask act before.

It works.

Everything in me said walking over to “just see” the Forty was a bad idea, but the kids and their mother had worn me down. Besides, part of me was annoyed and wanted to see this jump. Every one spoke about it the way climbers talk about K2. It couldn’t possibly be that imposing.

I sighed. “Aidan, do you want to come?”

“Sure, but I’m not jumping,” he said.

I put my arm around his tanned bare shoulder. “Trust me. I ain’t jumping either, pal.”

When the five of us got to the Forty, there was a group of ten college-aged boys peering over the ledge, debating whether to jump. Apparently, they had been having this debate for a long time. Forty feet is equivalent to the height of a four-story building. Falling forty feet onto pavement would leave a big wet mark at the point of impact. For me to even think about jumping off a forty-foot cliff would require two milligrams of Xanax and a diaper.

“You go first,” one of the college boys said to one of his pals.

“I’m not going first; you go first,” his friend replied.

“It’s not that high,” another kid chimed in, peeking over the side.

“Then you do it,” a tall kid said, pretending he was going to push his friend in. The kid quickly jumped backed from the edge.

There were four boys below, sitting across from the Forty on a small island made up of large marble blocks stacked on top of each other. They were taunting their friends. They had already made the leap and were trying to shame the guys at the top into joining them.

“Jump, for crying out loud,” one yelled, taking a swig of beer.

“Once you step off, it’s nothing,” the guy sitting next to him added.

“How many times do your arms go round in a circle before you hit the water?” a kid on the cliff called down through cupped hands. Apparently this data point provides an accurate measure of how high a jump is.

“Maybe three times and then you’re in. No big deal,” said the kid drinking beer.

“Three arm rotations? That’s pretty far,” someone whispered behind us.

The guys at the ledge were not effete choirboys. I learned that the group was made up of Division I lacrosse players from a nationally ranked college team. They were buff, as my daughters would say. Given their physical prowess and toughness, I would’ve thought they would be doing double-gainers off this thing by now.

“How long have you guys been up here debating this?” I asked.

“About half an hour,” they said.

My eyes widened. “And you still haven’t jumped?”

The kids folded their arms and stared me down. “Take a look,” they said.

I moved through their huddled group and peeked over the edge.

It was K2.

I immediately stepped back two feet, afraid that some smartaleck college kid would shove me in as a beta test, the logic being, “Let’s see if a middle-aged man can survive the plummet. If he does, then we’ll do it.”

I crept slowly forward and looked over the ledge again. It looked even higher than I had anticipated. It was seventeen feet taller than the twenty-three-footer we had been jumping off of twenty minutes ago, but it might as well have been a mile. A breeze moved across the water below, gently roughing its surface. Sun light danced on the crests of the tiny swells.

“Yeah, that’s pretty far,” I said.

“Ya think?” one of the offended lacrosse players said.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Maddie walking forward. She comported herself with the proud and sure stride of a Masai tribeswoman with a fruit-laden basket on her head. She held her head high; the motion of her brown legs was fluid and strong. She was the embodiment of Amelia Earhart, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, Joan of Arc, and Sacagawea.

“Maddie, don’t you dare—” I said, but it was too late. As calm as a bird taking flight, she leaped off the Forty without one iota of hesitation. She descended like a pencil weighted at the tip, her body rigid and straight; her arms tight to her sides to minimize impact and limit the possibility of a belly-flopping rotation. She barely made a splash. When she came up out of the water, she was smiling from ear to ear.

“Dad, it’s awesome! You have to do it!” she yelled up, swimming a backstroke toward the island where the other jumpers were sitting.

I snorted. “Not a prayer,” I yelled. “And by the way, you’re freaking grounded until you go to college.”

Maddie giggled. Then she squealed with laughter when her sister Cailey made the jump while my back was turned. I’d lost authority. It was mob rule.

It was then that I felt someone tugging at my swim trunks. It was my eight-year-old son, Aidan. He looked up at me with brown, doelike eyes and said, “Dad, if you do it, I’ll do it.”

There are moments in a father’s life when he realizes that he is facing a decision of irreducible consequence. At first blush, the event might appear trivial, but in his gut the father knows that what he says or does next will determine whether his child will be going to Harvard or riding out his twenties working at the Gap to pay for therapy. This was one of those liminal moments. Even the college boys around us knew something sacred and momentous was happening. One of them shushed the others, while the rest of the group ogled me like a Greek chorus waiting for the hero’s decision.

I looked over the side and noticed that small shrubs and oak saplings were growing horizontally out of the cracks on the face of the cliff wall. You’d have to make a serious leap to clear the vegetation. “I don’t know, Aidan,” I said, my knees beginning to wobble.

Aidan looked over the side, took a deep breath, and blew out. Then he looked at me and said again, “I mean it, Dad. If you jump, so will I.”

The next thing that happened made me believe that maybe some of the more fantastic Bible stories are really true. Maybe the power of the Lord can embolden a kid to kill a giant with a slingshot. Maybe grace can make a rascal noble or a coward brave, even if it’s only for a moment.

I walked off the ledge.

The college kids were wrong. It was four full arm revolutions before I hit the water. The drop was high enough that the impact hurt the bottom of my feet. A belly flop from this height would liquefy your internal organs. But it was exhilarating as all getout. I was twelve again.

But then I remembered Aidan.

I looked up to see my eight-year-old boy, peering down at me. Around him was the Greek chorus of lacrosse players, fascinated by the family drama playing itself out in front of them. What I realized as I looked up at Aidan was just how high this jump really was and how letting him make the leap might be a really bad idea. He was so small. What if he landed wrong and did some serious damage to his neck or back? What if he accidentally hit a slab of marble no one knew was just below the surface? What if a condor snatched him midair and took him to its aerie to feed him to its condor babies? These are the kinds of things that go through my mind even now as an adult.

Aidan smiled at me, and I knew in my heart that everything in his life and in mine had always been leading up to this moment. He jokingly made the sign of the cross three times fast and then jumped. Like his sisters, he hit the water so perfectly that his entrance into the water barely disturbed the surface.

“Yes!” I cried, and waited for him to come up. But he didn’t. After three or four seconds of waiting, I looked over at Maddie and Cailey. The two college boys on the island peered into the water to see if they could see him any better from their angle than I could from mine. Nausea engulfed me. I imagined one of his feet caught in an angry crib of branches and crisscrossing logs that had long been waiting on the quarry bottom for a victim such as this. I visualized Aidan’s frightened eyes and felt his struggle to get free. I was just taking a deep breath to go down to search for him when, two feet in front of me, a sixty-five-pound blond rocket shot up out of the water. If his eyes had been any wider, they would have fallen out of their sockets. He’d lost a few baby teeth that summer, so when he smiled, he looked like a drunken pumpkin. He was laughing, coughing, and blowing water out of his nose all at once. The cowardly group of twenty-year-olds cheered, albeit ashamed of themselves for being shown up by an eight-year-old.

“Aidan! Aidan! Aidan!” Maddie and Cailey chanted and danced from the island.

Aidan and I looked into each other’s eyes, and a wonderful admixture of joy and grief arrested me. I had witnessed a death and a birth. Looking into his face, I knew that the boy who had gone into the water was not the boy who had come out. The old things had passed away; behold, all things were new.

He threw his arms around me while I treaded water to keep us afloat.

“Dad, I did it,” he said into my ear.

“I know,” I said, my throat knotting with joy.

All around us now were the screams and splashes of college kids jumping off the cliff, not to be outdone by the daring bravery of an eight-year-old.

“Hey, mister, is that your kid?” It was one of the college kids sitting on the island.

“He sure is,” I said.

“How old is he?” he asked, taking a swig of beer and wiping his mouth with his forearm.

When I told him, he shook his head and held his beer up to Aidan in a toast of respect. “Kid, you’ve got big balls.”
Aidan pulled away and looked at me, eyes afire like diamonds, his arms still around my neck. “Dad, did you hear him?” he asked.

I laughed. “Yeah.”

He hugged me again. I felt his wet, smooth cheek pressed against my own. “I’ve got big balls,” he whispered in my ear.

“Big brass ones,” I whispered back. And we laughed and laughed and laughed until it felt like the water and the marble cliffs and all of creation was laughing with us.

I commissioned a local artist to paint an oil of the quarry on a typical summer’s day, brimming with people of seemingly every tribe and nation. If you look closely in the left-hand corner of the canvas, there are three kids in midair, holding hands. They have just leaped off the Forty. One is blond, one is brunette, one a redhead. These are my children.

They have jumped, not fallen.

Editor's note: This op-ed includes an excerpt from the author's new book. 

Ian Morgan Cron served for ten years as the Founding and Senior Pastor of Trinity Church in Greenwich, Conn., a non-denominational community committed to social justice as well as to communicating the Christian story through the arts. He is the author of "Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale." His latest book “Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me: A Memoir…of Sorts” (Thomas Nelson) was released June 7. Follow him on Twitter @iancron For more visit his website: www.iancron.com

Ian Morgan Cron is the bestselling author "Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me…A Memoir…of Sorts." His latest release is "Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale."