This Sunday is Father’s Day, the time when we celebrate the dads in our lives. Being the father of four, I can attest that being a dad is not a undertaking for the faint of heart. Generations ago, men had it easier, if Ward Cleaver or Mike Brady of classic television sitcoms are any indication – work every day during the week, escape to the home office when you are home and play golf on the weekends; the only time a dad interacted with their children was to dispense disciplinary chastisement or moral clichés. Today’s dads are expected to work inside and outside the home, attend a fair number of their children’s extra-curricular and school events, and spend quality time with their family. As I reflect on these things, I realize that being a father is one of the hardest and greatest roles God has blessed me to perform.
There is a man, a father, in the Bible that inspires me as a dad. His name was Jairus. He was a synagogue leader (and therefore a man of faith) and the father of a 12-year-old daughter. But he was a father in crisis: despite the religious practices he, no doubt, engaged in (praying, offering sacrifices and fasting), his daughter was dying. What would you do if your baby was deathly ill? If you are Jairus, you go to an itinerant rabbi whom you heard had accomplished miracles. However, before he could return with the man of Galilee, a servant of his tells him that it is too late: his daughter is dead.
Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” Luke 8:50
Instead of giving up, Jairus gave his troubles over to Jesus. He continued the long walk home and, instead of trusting the eyes of his servant, he trusted the words of a stranger. As he came into his home, there was weeping and mourning appropriate to the circumstances. But Jesus would not have any of it.
He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. Mark 5:39-40
What is a dad to do? You take a leap of faith and everyone you care about thinks it is a joke. But, then again, what did he have to lose? If Jesus was unable to do anything, his daughter was still dead…but what if HE WAS ABLE to do something amazing?
There are days that I feel like Jairus, asking Jesus to secure a healthy future of my child. I have nothing I can offer but trust: trust that my 10-year-old will safely navigate the streets of Boston from school to home, trust that my 17-year-old will pass that difficult class, trust that my 20-year-old will be protected from the dangers prevalent in our national capital and trust that my 23-year-old will arrive home safely from that job 131 miles away. People may say that my intercessions are realistically useless or that my circumstances are ridiculously hopeless. Still, the dad in me will trust in the one who is able to do immeasurably more than I can imagine.
Happy Father’s Day to all those who are blessed to be called “Dad”.
Before I was called to ministry, I worked at a local bank as a trust officer. Trust departments, for those who don’t know it, administer funds to beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of executed wills and trusts. At the time, I was responsible for distributing and/or managing large inheritances. It was, in many ways, both wonderful and wearisome. Typically, when a person receives notice that they have been named in a trust or will there is excitement and gratitude. After a time, those feelings of delight often devolved into attitudes of entitlement and expectation.
As a young man in his twenties, I never could understand the desensitization my clients experienced. Surely, if a loved one bestowed upon me a vast fortune I would never forget where it came from and would always display humility in accepting this generosity. I would not become angry if my request for discretion was denied. I would not demand to speak to the Senior Vice President about the rudeness of a rejection. I would never take for granted the generosity of the one who gave me so much. I would simply be glad for what I had been given.
“…and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” Colossians 1:12
It is important for me to remember that my heavenly Father has given me an inheritance. Am I still appreciating the riches that have been bequeathed to me, or have I begun to feel entitled? According to the Scriptures, the children of God inherit His kingdom, a reality where God makes His dwelling place among His people and provides comfort, strength and security for all who are His. As royalty (a child of the king) very need is supplied by my Father, the king, simply because He desires to provide for me. When was the last time I paused to offer thank for this immeasurable gift?
Honestly, thanksgiving is not as prominent in my conversations (with my Father or with others) as it ought to be. I complain when my requests for discretion are denied and I am not granted whatever whim I want. I pout when my perceived ‘needs’ are exposed as the luxuries they truly are. After figuratively throwing myself on the floor and pounding my hands and feet into the carpet, I eventually come to the conclusion that my Father is a better manager, a better judge of need, a better provider than I am. He has given everything I need and more. For that I am increasingly grateful.
Sunday is Father’s Day, a day to appreciate and recognize the one who provides for and protects his children. I am blessed to have a father who provided for me and my siblings, who equipped me with a strong mind and a strong will and who remains a source of support to me today. Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I am also blessed with a Father in heaven who has given me a hope and a future that far outshines any trouble the world may deliver. Happy Father’s Day, Abba! For all who father children – your own or the offspring of others – whether you are a single mother, a foster dad, a big brother or a proud papa, Happy Father’s Day this weekend!
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.