The God Who Embraced Me John W. Fountain was four years old when police took his abusive father away. His lifelong sorrow from living without a "daddy" was comforted by finding a new father -- a spiritual father -- in God.
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The God Who Embraced Me

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The God Who Embraced Me

The God Who Embraced Me

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Unidentified Woman #1: I believe in the ingredients of love.

Unidentified Man #1: I believe in freedom of speech.

Unidentified Woman #2: I believe that a little outrage can take you a long way.

Unidentified Man #2: I believe in truth.

Unidentified Woman #3: I believed in being black and angry.

Unidentified Woman #4: I believe in empathy.

Unidentified Man #3: I believe in honor, faith and service to one's country and to mankind.

Unidentified Man #4: This I believe.


On Mondays, we bring you our series This I Believe. Today, our essay comes from John Fountain, a professor of journalism at the University of Illinois and a former reporter for The New York Times and Chicago Tribune. Fountain also is an ordained minister with Pentecostal roots. Here is our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON reporting:

This is not a religious series. It is about personal belief, the principles that guide a life. For some, religious teaching is subordinate to the lessons life has taught them. For others, like John Fountain, religious belief is at the center of their lives because of the lessons life has taught them. Here is John Fountain with his essay for This I Believe.


I believe in God. Not that cosmic, intangible spirit in the sky that Mama told me as a little boy always was and always will be, but the God who embraced me when Daddy disappeared from our lives, from my life at age four, the night police led him away from our front door, down the stairs in handcuffs, the God who warmed me when we could see our breath inside our freezing apartment where the gas was disconnected in the dead of another wind-whipped Chicago winter and there was no food, little hope and no hot water, the God who held my hand when I witnessed boys in my hood swallowed by the elements, by death and by hopelessness, who claimed me when I felt like no man's son amid the absence of any man to wrap his arms around me and tell me everything's going to be OK, to speak proudly of me, to call me son.

I believe in God, God the Father embodied in his Son, Jesus Christ, the God who allowed me to fill his presence whether by the warmth that filled my belly like hot chocolate on a cold afternoon or that voice whenever I found myself in the tempest of life's storms telling me, even when I was told I was nothing, that I was something, that I was his and that even amid the desertion of the man who gave me his name and his DNA and little else, I might find in him sustenance. I believe in God, the God who I have come to know as Father, as Abba, Daddy.

I always envied boys I saw walking hand in hand with their fathers. I thirsted for the conversations fathers and sons have, about the birds and the bees, or about nothing at all, simply feeling his breath, heartbeat, presence. As a boy, I used to sit on the front porch watching the cars roll by, imagining that one day, one would park and the man getting out would be my daddy, but it never happened.

When I was 18, I could find no tears that Alabama winter's evening in January 1979 as I stood finally face to face with my father, lying cold in a casket, his eyes sealed, his heart no longer beating, his breath forever stilled. Killed in a car accident, he died drunk, leaving me hobbled by the sorrow of years of fatherlessness. By then, it had been years since Mama had summoned the police to our apartment that night, fearing that Daddy might hurt her, hit her again. Finally, his alcoholism consumed what good there was of him until it swallowed him whole. It wasn't until many years later, standing over my father's grave for a long overdue conversation, that my tears flowed. I told him about the man I had become. I told him about how much I wished he had been in my life, and I realized fully that in his absence, I had found another, or that he, God the Father, God my father, had found me.

ALLISON: John Fountain with his essay for This I Believe.

Often when listeners hear essays in this series, they are inspired to write their own. We hope that might be true for you. You can find out more about submitting your writing and see all the essays in the series at our Web site, For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

SIEGEL: Next Monday on "Morning Edition," a This I Believe essay from sixth-grade teacher Daniel Ferri in Chicago.


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