Sunday was Father’s Day, a day full of commercialism and consumerism, yet one when we can pause and take time to give thanks for our dads, living and deceased. As with Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is more than often one of mixed emotions. In an ideal world, all of us would have positive feelings about our fathers. In reality, it is not true for many people.
"You matter to me"
Amongst any group of people there are those who did not or do not have a positive relationship with their father. From a biblical point of view this is not surprising given we are all broken, fallen human beings; coming from families that are never all they could be. But that doesn’t take away from the hurt, pain and sadness many of us carry. The result is that we can come into adulthood with what some psychologists call a “father-hunger’ which simply means that some of us have never truly been validated, nurtured or affirmed by a father figure.
Yet, the Bible calls us to honour our parents, something we can do despite the difficulties of the past, and something this Day gives us the opportunity to do.
Many men, despite having a “father-hunger” nevertheless go on to be very good fathers. Many women marry a man who is not emotionally absent like their father, and, by the grace of God, enjoy happy and fruitful marriages. Others, of course, are not as fortunate.
So what is a good father?
In the past a man was a ‘good father’ if he worked hard and provided well for his family. Today, we realise how much children need their dads to be loving and involved fathers. Children need time given generously and graciously, even if other matters are pressing. When a father takes time to listen to his kids, to laugh at their jokes, have fun with them, be present for the important events of their lives, he communicates an unmistakable message: “You matter to me.” Nothing says it better.
A good father loves his wife, and gives example to his sons what a loving man is like, while showing his daughters what they should expect in their own future. A good father has integrity. He keeps his word especially to his kids and his wife. In a time when a sense of honour and responsibility seem in short supply, children need such a model. Yet, a loving father does not live through his children. He does not expect to find his own identity nor sense of worth in what his children can accomplish, even as he takes pride in their good works.
Despite the stereotypes of men in our society, a good father is also a man of faith. He believes in a God of mercy and goodness. He is not embarrassed to talk about it, or to show his dependence on God. Such faith is a precious heritage to his children when lack of faith is everywhere.
Grace and mercy
Sadly, most have not experienced a father like this, and so Father’s Day is a day full of mixed feelings. As we remember our own father, no matter our own experience and memories of him, we have the opportunity to know and experience God as Father. Our Heavenly Father does not and will not let us down like our earthly fathers, and always has our best interests at heart. It is as we experience the love of our Heavenly Father that we can honour, and where appropriate forgive, our earthly fathers.
For us who know our Heavenly Father, it is possible for Father’s Day to be a day of honouring, forgiveness, healing and freedom as we allow the grace and mercy of God to impact our lives.
May God bless you and your family this Father’s Day.
Stephen L Baxter
*(Deep & Meaningful)