Father’s Day Reflection inspired by Sunday’s sermon, the Vietnamese Countryside and the Arcade Fire

I try not to blog too much about our children because I know it annoys people to hear how incredible their kid is. But I blog what’s on my mind, not everything of course, but a little bit, and being a dad has occupied a lot of my attention. So far, I’m told I’m a good one, a really good one. I ask our two year old all the time, “Am I a good daddy? He always says “Yes” and he gives me a hug and I give him a cookie. I’ve caught my wife rolling her eyes at that. I don’t know what her problem is, after all, she has a great father too.

But I have been thinking about fatherhood quite a bit lately. This Father’s Day was my third one and it was also very special as it was the first for some dear people in my life – my brother-in-law, one of my cousins, and a few dear friends. I remember very clearly my first Father’s Day, there was a lot of joy and I felt very grateful. Today has really been no different and I would say that I have enjoyed many of these moments over these last two years.

In Pastor Sam’s sermon, he preached on a number of things while having the overarching theme of fatherhood. He reminded us that this is his first father’s day without his own father and he’s not sure if he has processed that. As one who enjoys a good relationship with his own dad, I was grieved by that. Further, I there were a couple of people throughout the congregation who had expressed emotion as we were discussing the topic of fathers. We all know it’s not an easy day for many but I was grateful that Sam felt the need to talk about it – we should always feel something when we come together in worship.

Being in Vietnam and Cambodia was tough on all of us in some way. Most of us are married, many of us have children and all of us have close family and friends that we missed, not to mention demanding responsibilities. There was a quite a few times we wondered what was going on with the respective ministries we were a part of. We reminded ourselves that if they cannot function without us for two weeks, then we are not doing that great of a job to begin with. That line of thought, however, does not work with being a husband and a father though. And I found myself thinking about fatherhood quite a bit. Not just because I was away from home but because this time in seminary is coming to an end, the boys are getting older and my wife has made numerous sacrifices as I have been studying and serving (I know this is true not only for all in our seminary program but for many in various vocations and contexts. Grace to you).

I think one moment that stands out while I was thinking about this was on one of our long bus rides. For me, it was an excellent time to process and stare out the window and listen to some music. It’s interesting to hear some of Dylan’s protest songs having just been to War Museum and staring at the Vietnamese countryside. As you would expect, it sounds different. Other things sound different as well. I listened to Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible album. I love this band (even went to a concert by myself to see them play – they are so good live).

For those that don’t know, AF is not a “Christian band”, though they explore a lot of spiritual themes. This album was recorded in an abandoned church that was converted into a studio (in Quebec) and I appreciate/agree with some of what Win Butler is frustrated with. In the song, “Intervention”, which is driven by a powerful organ, one lyric in particular gripped me, “Working for a church while your family dies” … “Singing Hallelujah with the fear in your heart”. I have heard this album countless times, have heard the lyric many times too, liked it, etc. it just hit me funny while being away and again, finishing this time of seminary.

The song’s meaning is pretty open-ended. As far as I know, Win has not clearly explained what he was thinking when he wrote that. Throughout the album, many themes emerge as well as many different characters (politicians, parents, lovers, etc.). But that’s one of the things I appreciate most about music and postmodernity, you get to interpret for yourself ;-) I heard the words as if they were a prophet from the Old Testament and if you are similar to me, you know many pastors/missionary kids. Many of them have had fantastic family upbringings and many of them have not. This Father’s Day, I meditated and prayed that my kids would never feel that this lyric to ever be true for them.

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