Martian Fathers

Sitting on my shelf I have a piece of Mars.  It’s a tiny piece, only a few milligrams, but still it’s a chunk of Mars.  When I hold it in my hands I am literally holding a piece of another planet.  It blows my mind.

The first question people ask when I show it to them is “how did you get a piece of Mars?”  Well, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…  Okay, it wasn’t in a galaxy far, far away, it was in our galaxy.  In fact, it was on the planet next door, a planet called Mars.

Now Mars is a pretty amazing place.  The skies look like butterscotch candy and when the sun rises it has a bluish tint.  Imagine climbing a volcano twice the size of Mount Everest or looking into a Grand Canyon that would stretch across the entire United States.  The best part is that you could explore the landscape while jumping almost three times higher than you could on earth.

As you are enjoying the amazing Martian scenery suddenly a gigantic meteorite comes streaking through the sky and plummets to the ground.  The resulting explosion blasts huge chunks of rock into the air and creates a huge impact crater almost 60 miles across.  Most of those rocks blasted into the air fall back to the surface, but a few of them are traveling more than five times faster than a rifle bullet and escape the gravitational pull of Mars.

Those rocks hurtle out into the cold darkness of space, scattering as they go.  One of those rocks continues to travel through space until it feels the pull of gravity.  It veers towards a nice green and blue planet called earth. It heads towards earth traveling more than twenty thousand miles per hour.  Suddenly it hits the atmosphere and compresses the air molecules ahead of it.  This heats the air which in turn heats the meteoroid.  It gets red hot and begins to disintegrate.

The outer layer melts and vaporizes, exposing the next layer of rock.  This layer, too, melts away and the process continues.  Layer after layer is stripped away until finally the meteoroid is near the surface of the earth.  The last layer of melted rock cools into a thin glassy fusion crust.  Suddenly the meteorite hits the ground and there lies buried on a strange new world.

Years later someone comes along and finds the meteorite.  But how do they know it’s from Mars?  Well, scientists test the minute traces of gas trapped within the meteorite.  In this case the composition doesn’t match that of earth’s atmosphere, but exactly matches the composition of the atmosphere on Mars, which we know about thanks to the Viking landers back in 1976.  That’s how we know that certain meteorites originally came from Mars.

That’s a pretty amazing story, but what does it have to do with fathers?  Well, first let me tell you a bit about my father.  I am blessed to have a most excellent dad.  He’s funny and brilliant and my whole life I’ve wanted to be just like him.  I remember in kindergarten the teacher asking us what we wanted to be.  Most kids wanted to be firefighters or doctors, but not me.  I wanted to be a physicist, just like my dad.  He would talk to me and laugh with me, help me with my homework and take me camping.  One of my fondest memories is when he taught me binary.  It was absolutely wonderful because it was just me and him, sitting there one evening talking about something that we both found fascinating.

Now I’m a dad.  Just like that tiny meteorite, I have traveled far, far away from my place of birth.  As I’ve traveled through the atmosphere of life I’ve been burned and scarred, cracked and chipped.  And to be honest, sometimes I feel small and insignificant and so very lost.  I absolutely love my three children, but I’ll admit it, most of the time I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

I strive every day to be a good dad.  I try to provide for my family’s needs, temporal, emotional and spiritual, but in order to thrive in the world today I know that my kids are going to need a lot of help.  Sometimes I lie awake at night and wish I could be so much more than I am.

But then I think of that tiny meteorite.  It may just look like a speck of rock to the rest of the world, but it’s amazing to me because I know where it’s from and I know the amazing journey that it has taken to get where it is today.  I don’t judge it by its imperfections and scars, I treat it as something special.

Fatherhood is the same way.  My dad isn’t perfect, but he is always there for me and that is what has made all the difference in my life.  When I doubt myself I look inside and see many of the same traits and qualities within me that I see in my father.  They may not be as developed, but they are there.  Just as I’ve inherited many of the physical attributes of my father, I’ve inherited many of his other attributes.  It’s going to take me a lifetime, but I still want to grow up and be like my dad.  I know it’s not going to be easy, but I know it’s possible because I am his son.  To disparage myself is to disparage him.

Now some of you might be thinking, “that’s great for you, but I don’t have a great dad.”  Unfortunately, this world is full of lousy dads.  Sometimes they are abusive and sometimes they aren’t present at all.  But no matter what kind of earthly father you have, we all share the same Heavenly Father.

He is wonderful and He is perfect.  He has watched over every single moment of your life.  He loves you even when you turn your back on Him.  And you have inherited some of His divine attributes.  You may be so very far away from your heavenly home and you may feel lost and insignificant, but if you could see inside of yourself you would see a piece of Him shining through.  Those attributes that you admire so greatly in Him are inside of you as well.  They must be developed, of course.  And it will take a lifetime, but you can grow up to be like your Dad.  Remember that to disparage yourself is to disparage Him.

So, to my earthly father as well as my Heavenly Father, thank you.  Thank you for the chance to be like you and thank you for all the help along the way, I desperately need it.

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