I personally know a great many men that have really huge issues with their dads. While many times I think the relationship between a father and a daughter is awkward and clumsy, the relationship between fathers and sons is much more complicated. Fathers seem to have a hard time approving of their sons and showing affection. They often drive their sons to be athletes when they are not, to be doctors when they are bricklayers or to be fighters when they are poets. A father sees his own weakness in his son and rather than working with the son to overcome the weakness, he simply encourages his son to compensate. Sons can grow up resentful, angry and disappointed by their dads. A great many men I know feel that their dad taught them some of their worst behaviors. Their dad feels like those bad behaviors are a symbol of rebellion against them. Rifts and gaps have developed over the years and communication has broken down. Sometimes dads make huge mistakes that a son or daughter can’t let go of. Some of those mistakes will never be forgiven. They are often grievous acts that scar a child for a lifetime.
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.
Fatherhood is full of lose-lose situations. There are times in a father’s life when no matter what he does he runs the risk of alienating himself from his family in some way. It is easy for me to see why some of the kids I know had father’s full of anger, criticism, greed and sarcasm. Their dads constantly felt as if they were failing. They felt like they were playing a game with a different set of rules than everyone else. Being a father is tough. Being a father requires a lot of sacrifice and a balance between earning a living and being there for your kids that is often very difficult to discern. Some just can’t ever seem to get it right. Some have completely given up. There is a huge part of our society today that has decided that being a father is just not worth it and their part in fatherhood ends with conception. Mom is left to fulfill the roles and both mom and dad.
This is Father’s Day. It is a good time to start getting things right with our dads. Not just sons, but daughter’s too. Most men do the best they can with what they have. A lot of times they gave their kids a much better life than their fathers gave them. On this day we need to honor our fathers. This is a great time to look for the good that our fathers did, to be thankful for what we received and not what we did without, to be thankful for love shown awkwardly, to choose to see their efforts and not their failures.
Ephesians 6:2 “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: 3 If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”
I truly wish I could have been a better father. In the vast army of fathers in the world today, I am not alone. There are legions of fathers out there today that wish they could go back in time and get some do-overs. I did the best I could do. I really wish I had let God be a bigger part of those years I was helping raise my kids. I didn’t. It would be easy to feel guilty and sometimes I do. But I gave my kids the opportunity to come to know God. I know that I did that. I also know that I will be here for them no matter what they do or where they go, whether they disappoint me or make me proud. Even if they wound me deeply I will want them to come back to me.
Jesus told of the prodigal son that greedily wanted his inheritance early and he left his family to go and pursue pleasures on his own. The son wasted it all away and nearly died. He decided to return home and live as a servant so he would at least know where his next meal was coming from. But his father was waiting for him, he hadn’t been forgotten. Dear old dad was missing him and expecting him home any day now. His father saw him coming from far away.
Luke 15:20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”
Today let’s honor our fathers. Return home to do it if you have to. Ask for forgiveness, give forgiveness. Fathers, let’s run to our kids. Let’s be filled with love and compassion for our sons. Embrace them and kiss them. Cry if you feel like crying, applaud if you feel like applauding. Make being a father more than just getting a card once a year. Let it remind us of forgiveness, love and compassion.
God, please take away my regrets and guilt from past mistakes. Fill me with love and compassion. Fill me with forgiveness. Amen.