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Sunday, June 20, 2010

On Father's Day

I don't know about you other men out there, but Father's Day has always been a bit of an oddity for me. My birth father died when I was a toddler, so I never knew him. I have only the vaguest memory of what he even looked like (though I have seen a few black-and-white photos of him).

My mother remarried when I was about eight years old, and her husband was a nice enough man. She told us to call him Dad, and usually referred to him as "your Father" or "your Dad." I never felt particularly close to him or loved by him. I never sat on his lap. He never played anything with me or did anything with me except to have me help him with chores. He never said I love you. Of course he wasn't abusive, and most people (including me) considered him to be a very nice man.

Father's Day with this step-father of mine were always interesting. We'd go through the motions of getting him cards and trying to get him gifts. Mom would always make sure we made a point of "honoring" him on that day. I'm not sure what that means though, even today. How does one go about honoring a father on one specific day? Even now, I struggle to find a good answer to that question.

This man who was in the position to be my Dad identified himself as a Christian. But he slept in church, never read a Bible and I never heard or saw him pray. What was his relationship with God really like? Even after he died I pondered that question. Does that matter? I mean, isn't the relationship of a man to his God relevant to his children? Isn't my relationship with God relevant to my children?

And there it is, the big question. Is my own relationship with God relevant to my children? Does it matter to them that their father reads his Bible every day, prays throughout the day and sometimes shares private tears with the Lord? And if it does matter, how does it matter? Is there a legacy being created there for the children? Do they themselves place any value on this? Or is their father's walk with God just something that results in intangible benefits that they reap some day without realizing it or realizing the source?

Our local newspaper this morning was chock full of editorials about Father's Day. Mostly they were people writing in memory of their father. Some were complimentary. Some described more of a dilemma, where years later they see something different in their father's than they may have seen at the time. To be honest, it all seemed a little sappy to me. I started to read one, but as I kept coming across them, I just started skimming and the words all began to blur.

What were these writers really saying about their fathers? What were the writers saying about fathers in general? Some women writers thanked men for being good fathers. One woman I read this weekend complained about not getting her child support. (Is Father's Day the right time to talk about that?)

So the question that I struggled with as a child really does remain today. How does one honor his (or her) father on Father's Day? The Bible says we are to honor our father and mother (Exodus 20:12, Matthew 19:19 & Ephesians 6:2). I've always thought that this is something which is best accomplished on a daily basis, with your behavior. You live a life that honors your father and mother by living their values, being obedient and respectful, and seeing that they're cared for when they're old and frail. What then, can be accomplished in this one day?

Now that I'm a father myself, I think I enjoy Father's Day a bit more. The pressure is off. I don't have to feel awkward about trying to honor him. The efforts I used to make that seemed lame at best - don't have to be made now. Ironically, my own children are making them. I see their efforts, and I appreciate their efforts. But I imagine they are asking the same question. I imagine they struggle with efforts and gift-giving that all seems a bit lame. I mean, what gift can they buy that would convey the condition of their heart toward their father? Isn't that the conundrum of all children today?

And what if you have unhappy memories of Father's Day? What if you were fatherless? What is your father was a despicable human being? Millions of people have that reality staring them in the face today. What do they do with Father's Day? Is this the one day a year they set aside to work on forgiving their father's for who they were or weren't in their lives? Can the bitterness and resentment, loneliness and pain be set aside on this one day of the year? Should they be?

It is Father's Day. Our nation has made a corporate decision to celebrate fatherhood today. My hope and prayer is that we'll look deeper than the cards and presents. My sincere desire is that we'll look into the man himself, and see his soul. Perhaps the best thing we could do in honor of Father's Day is to break down barriers and achieve new levels of intimacy with our fathers. We could see that a father's children are his legacy, and we could own that responsibility as his children.

Happy Father's Day. Now let's do something worthwhile with it!

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