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Cat’s in the Cradle

Many of you may recall the popular song “Cat’s in the Cradle” sung by Harry Chapin. The words always bring a tear to my eye because I am a father, and over the years I have had to travel so much. The song unfolds as follows:

My child arrived just the other day;
He came to the world in the usual way,
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay,
He learned to walk while I was away.

And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it and as he grew,
He’d say, “I’m gonna be like you, Dad.
You know I’m gonna be like you.”
And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little Boy Blue and the man in the moon.

“When you comin’ home, Dad?”
“I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then;
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

My son turned ten just the other day.
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on, let’s play.
Can you teach me to throw?”
I said, “No, not today,
I got a lot to do.”

He said, “That’s okay.”
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed.
It said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah,
You know I’m gonna be like him….”

And he came from college just the other day;
So much like a man I just had to say,
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?”
He shook his head and he said with a smile,
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys.
See you later, can I have them please?”

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away.
I called him up just the other day.
I said, “I’d like to see you, if you don’t mind.”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time.
You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kids have the flu,
But it’s sure nice talkin’ to you, Dad,
It’s been nice talkin’ to you.”

And as I hung up the phone
It occurred to me,
He’d grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little Boy Blue and the man in the moon,
“When you comin’ home, Son?”
“I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, Dad.
We’re gonna have a good time then.”

The melodrama of this song was played out in Chapin’s own life almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have been told that his wife, who wrote the words of the song, asked him one day when he was going to slow down the torrid pace of his life and give some time to their children. His answer was, “At the end of this busy summer, I’ll take some time to be with them.” That summer, ironically and tragically, Harry Chapin was killed in a car accident.

It is not possible to read that postscript of Chapin’s death and miss the larger point—that something was known, believed, and even “preached,” but never lived. When we chase manmade crowns and sacrifice the treasured relationships for which God has made us, life loses its meaning.

Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God, (Word Publ., Dallas: 1994), pp. 108-109