Yesterday was Father’s Day. Father’s Day can be very difficult for many people– in my case, it can be a reminder of how much I miss my Dad, who passed away 20 years ago. Some of my friends have had recent experience in losing a beloved father. For some, the hurt is still there after 50 years, or 70.
For others, it is a difficult day, not because they grieve the loss of a father to death, but because they grieve the absence of a loving father– an absentee father, an unknown father, an abusive father, or a distant, cold, or critical father.
At this point, I generally point to the Father who is eternally loving and faithful– Our Heavenly Father is God of the fatherless and the orphan, the God of restoration and reconciliation. No matter where our earthly fathers are or have been, God is always right by our side.
All that is true, but I want to share something that’s been bothering me. I scrolled down my FB feed, and listened in at church, and talked to a restaurant owner, and looked at the card section at the store. And there’s something missing. It’s not that we don’t honor fathers. I saw a lot of wonderful tributes to dads, husbands, brothers, and sons. I saw sons sitting with their recently widowed father at church; a son honoring his father by taking him out to eat; fathers and sons wearing awesome matching shirts with fun messages, and lots of old photos of dads with their families in years past, as well as newer pictures of dads with goofy toddlers, and pretty girls in prom dresses, and holding newborns.
We honor fathers, but we do not honor Fatherhood. We seem awkwardly proud and surprised when fathers actually show up and do their job. We make it seem easy, even brainless, in comparison to the work of a mother. In fact, there are those who argue that Fatherhood is not necessary for family life. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is POSSIBLE to rear children in a single-parent household (male or female). It is possible to raise strong and healthy children without the presence of a father (or mother). But that doesn’t make it desirable or advantageous for a child, or for society.
What are we losing as a society when we engage in (or stay on the sidelines for) a war on Fatherhood? When we make excuses for bad fathers or mothers who choose to denigrate the men who gave life to their children? What happens when “dad” becomes, not the name of a single influential person in your life, but the name of whichever man is currently living with mom, AND also the man who sees you every other weekend? What happens when the media consistently portray moms as hardworking and wise, and dads are the comic relief?
We are losing the next generation of fathers; the next generation of men with drive and passion to work for something beyond their own whims and wants. We are losing the next generation of women, too– as they struggle to be both mothers and fathers, or choose to be neither because it’s too much trouble to do it alone. We are losing a sense of what it means to be a Father– the honor, the responsibility, the joy and pride, the reward. Worst of all, we are losing the examples of fathers who through their words and actions, are pointing others to our Heavenly Father. God is not a baby-daddy; He is not an absentee father or an every-other-weekend Father. He is not a faceless provider of money for new clothes and college textbooks. He is not a goofy guy who tells bad jokes and pats you on the head once in a while. He is not the one who never shows up for your game or your dance recital because he’s too busy playing golf with the guys.
This isn’t universally true– and I’m so grateful for the men, young and old, who are staying the course, setting the examples, and standing out like beacons of light. And I don’t wish to belittle the women who have had to be both mother and father due to death or other circumstances beyond their control. But we desperately need good fathers. We need fathers who will fight the good fight; not fathers who are Missing In Action. We need active, responsible, faithful Dads. But we need to pray for them. We need to honor them. We need to encourage and support them. More than just one day a year….