Father’s Day 2015 – feels like a lot going on. On my side, it was the first one with our newest and fourth child, Baby Bri. Four kids wasn’t exactly the plan, but Brianna is making the case that it should have always been. She’s a really sweet kid, full of smiles and giggles, loves the attention, and we think she’s going to be a lot of fun. How are things with four little kids? Well, it’s like this – we couldn’t get a great picture with all 4 of them … and me.
For some, Father’s Day is amazing. For some this is their first one and so a big congratulations to them – I hope you enjoy many more. I consider my first Father’s Day to be a very significant day of my life, a very spiritual one, and was grateful to have spent it with our son and my own dad.
But beyond the “firsts,” the great pictures, memories, funny stories, there is a whole lot of complexity. As with all family relationships, the father-figure is challenging, and while it can bring great joy and love, it can also bring tension and even great pain. Every mother, father, spouse, child, sibling, and every family relationship fits and moves across this scale of beauty/love and tension/pain.
As with every holiday, observance, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, these are challenging days. Probably like you, I think of my friends who have estranged relationships with their dads and families. I think of the dads who have passed on from this life and the children who miss him dearly. I think of young fathers going through painful times, I think of fathers who have had to bury their sons way too soon. I think of a dear friend of mine who would have celebrated his birthday and Father’s Day together and I still mourn his passing. I also think of the family who shared with me the story of their son who shared with them his sexual orientation … and I appreciated the heart in how they are moving forward together.
If there is a fallacy I would like to identify, is that beyond the Facebook pictures and the Father’s Day shout-outs, there is really no such thing as a perfect father. And the reason is because there are no perfect people. You, me, we will all fail the people we love in numerous ways. May God have mercy on them … and us. I pray that I will be able to seek forgiveness, and that between my wife and I, and with God’s help, we will serve our kids in many ways as they figure out who they are and what they’re here for. That said, it’s a joy for me to have this prayer, to have this fear, to have this hope and it’s one of the greatest things I’ve learned from my own dad.
I have always enjoyed the love and stability of a caring father, to the point of classifying it as a given assumption. Without sugar-coating, even during the greatest frustrations with my dad, I never doubted he loved me. I think I would have naively said, “He has to love me, I’m his kid.” It would be many years before I knew just how blessed that naiveté was. And it’s not any stretch for me to wonder what my life would have been without a loving father and mother. And this is among the reasons why Father’s Day is so special and so challenging for so many.
Among the greatest stories I know in life are the ones who took the brokenness from their failed relationships with their dads and acted as a father-figure or a big-brother to a younger version of themselves. I remember sitting in a Starbucks and talking about vocation, calling and mission and this man of similar age to me explaining how his father wasn’t particularly interested in him. He told me about the pain this brought, but he also shared with me the calling it gave him during his unfolding adulthood. He said very clearly, “God opened a door for me and I get to be a dad to these two kids.” It wasn’t an ideal situation, but from the outside looking in, they’re making it better. Happy Father’s Day to this man.
There is such great redemption when we channel the energy from our heartbreaks to help and love another. And while I enjoy flipping through Facebook and seeing my friends posting pictures with their fathers and status updates expressing their love, I am mindful of the stories this day brings as well.
Some will say that good fathers will solve all the problems of the world. That seems like an over-simplification and I’m also uncomfortable with its complementarian sentiment. Still, I agree our society would immeasurably benefit with more and better father relationships. Throughout the weekend, I couldn’t help but think of the Charleston tragedy, the racial tensions, the prejudices that are inherited, the new strifes that are created, and the crucial role that fathers play in our homes and how this affects our world.
This Father’s Day brings out all of that. And so I find myself thinking that rejoicing with the joyful and grieving with the mournful is not hypocritical but rather it’s part of the paradox of the human experience. Gratitude, compassion, seeking the better – this feels like the way through. Grace and strength to all during these trying and amazing days.
If you’re interested in more of my thoughts on fatherhood, considering picking up a copy of Father Factor – a book I got to contribute a chapter to. You can read about it here. And no, I didn’t write this post to promote the book :)