How to dismantle your father

I was listening to U2's great new album yesterday - "How to dismantle an atomic bomb". It seems to be everyones favourite 'music for the journey' right now. The first track to get my attention was track 3. Bono is talking about his relationship with his father ("it's you when I look in the mirror") and the singing gift he got from him ("You're the reason why the opera is in me"). But, it was not always happy ("We fight all the time", "A house doesn't make a home").

Another track which caught my attention was track 9. The story behind it is that Bono was talking to Noel Gallagher from Oasis. His father had just died and was ambivalent about going to the funeral. Noel said that it would help him let go and to get "one step closer to knowing" himself and his father and all that he meant.

What Bono describes here beautifully is the process of letting go of a father figure and becoming your own man (or woman!). It can be especially hard if things had been difficult between people and if there was some good to be held onto - his fathers opera and his fathers faith. But, being able to be ourselves and to have 'left home' psychologically is a key part of maturity. 'Father' becomes 'Friend'.

For some, the idea of a father can be a tough one - and this can be transferred onto our understanding of God. God can seem restrictive, cruel, authoritarian, even abusive and vindictive - if that was the experience of their father. For this reason, I wonder if we have a particular responsibility to work things out with our fathers so that we are not transferring onto God things that are actually of our father. God is his own person.

The relationship between a man and his father is also different to that between a woman and her father. Men can find it hard to be close to their fathers and show emotion. Men find it hard to come out from under their father's shadow. I wonder if it was for this reason that four times, the Bible gives the following command about marriage. Note that the man leaves, not the wife.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Bono is in his 40s and you might think he would have got a lot of this sorted by now, but actually there are often many steps in 'leaving home' - some we do when we first sleep-over at a friends aged 6 or 7. another is when we might go off to college - but they keep on coming.

Another titile for this album might be "How to dismantle your Father". Step-by-step and with love-in-the-song would seem to be the answer.
Rob Waller, 23/07/2008