On Sunday, we will celebrate Father’s Day. Some of us have had great fathers – those who threw the ball in the backyard, who taught us how to ride a bike, who took us to the father-daughter dance and who hugged us regularly; some of us have had less-than-perfect fathers. Some of us are good fathers; some of us are less-than-perfect fathers – maybe we’ve spent too much time at work and too little time at home or we’ve displayed too much anger and not enough comfort toward our kids. With all the things that are competing for our attention, it is a miracle that anyone has a good relationship with their father.
I sometimes wonder what my children (ages 19, 16, 13 and 6) think of me as their father. I am not so out of touch to assume that I am anywhere close to perfect, but I imagine that I am (at least) adequate. While I am the first to admit that I don’t play catch with my boys as often as I’d like or tell my daughter she’s special as often as I should, I contend that I have done some things right. My wondering relates to whether a) they recognize my overtures in fathering, and b) my overtures are what my children need from a dad.
[Jesus said,] “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:9–12
My queries about my children’s hearts cause me to question my own: do I recognize my heavenly Father’s overtures? Do I recognize the good gifts He has lavished upon me when I have asked for His favor? Do I know the love of God that is conveyed in calling Him “Abba” (daddy)? I occasionally wrestle with the tension that every child has: I want all the benefits of being a child of the King but bristle under the disciplines and responsibilities of being royalty. I want the gifts and not the guidance. I want to be God’s child but, at times, don’t want Him to be my Father.
No matter how greatly I protest, however, He is ‘our Father which art in heaven’. And he is perfect in all His ways. It would be foolish, akin to spitting in the wind, to deny myself the joys of His fatherly blessings because I did not want His just discipline. His love is shown equally in the gifts and in the guidance He shows me.
Fathering, on this side of eternity, is not an exact science. Sometimes we do the right things and our children rebel. Sometimes we do the wrong things and our children relate. Sometimes we do our best and realize that our best is not good enough. Happy Father’s Day to all those who are fathers, grandfathers, fathers-to-be and father figures. May you demonstrate, even imperfectly, the pattern of the One who blessed you with the role we celebrate.