Dear Pastor,

As I’ve said before, tone can be tricky in writing. Let’s picture me stopping by your office–again, I know, I know =)–, but this time with two diet cokes in my hands. Given all of the unexpected attention my Mother’s Day Letter to you generated, it’s understandable that you tilt your head at me and with your eyes ask, “Friend or foe?”

Handing you one of the diet cokes I smile and say, “Pastor, I come as a friend! One with opinions, yes, but one who also respects the weighty call you have.” You pop open your can and I pop open mine. After taking a sip, this is what I want to share.

If I made an odd candidate to speak up on Mother’s Day, I make an even odder one to speak up on Father’s Day. But as I mentioned before, people tell me things from the shadowy corners of their souls, and without violating confidences, I’d like to share them with you.

1. Some men will stay away from church on Father’s Day not-so-much due to the standing thing (that seems to be a bigger deal on Mother’s Day) but because of the shaming thing. There seems to be a double standard of honoring mothers and shaming fathers on their respective days. There are places to call any one of us on ways that we are not honoring our callings (and yes, fatherhood can be a calling), but this is not the day for that message. Pick some time in October or February or really any day but this one.

2. Recognize the broad spectrum of fathering. A friend’s brother was recently left unexpectedly by his wife who took their young daughter with her. I’m picturing this man who would like nothing more than to see his family healed and restored; but on this day he is awakening to an empty house and there will be no dear young arms hugging him or young lips kissing his face. He is but one of many for whom this Father’s Day is different from years past.

In your flock you will have those:

  • who are faithful husbands and fathers (!)
  • who found out years later of children they never knew who were aborted (and they wonder about them today)
  • who have regrets in the ways they parented
  • who became first time dads and RADIATE joy like the sun
  • who lost children or grandchildren this year and the ache is so profound words are inadequate
  • who walk the paths of infertility but are supposed to be “the strong one”
  • who aren’t providing for their families in ways that they want
  • who encouraged their children to be aborted
  • who had horrific fathers are doing the best that they can
  • who love fathering and walk honorably in the role
  • who are co-parenting and are not able to be with their children as much as they want
  • who are estranged from their children both relationally and physically
  • who lost their father this year and feel like orphans
  • who did not grow up with good fathers and it has impacted their view of God

There will be step-fathers, fathers-in-law, adoptive fathers, biological fathers, foster fathers, spiritual fathers and mentors. David had his mighty men and we have mighty, brave men in our midst too!

3. Commend fathering for the ways it reflects the Imago Dei (Image of God) by protecting new life, encouraging those on his path, and living with the tension of providing both freedom and a safety net. One of the great joys in life is watching my brother-in-law delight in his children. In him (and my own father), I see a picture of the way God delights in us and allows men to reflect that aspect of Him.

Thanks for listening and for continuing to spiritually parent us in a shepherding way. I wonder what kind of response this letter will bring. Will people care as passionately about men on Father’s Day as they did women on Mother’s Day? I don’t know. But regardless of what others do, thank you for showing up week in and week out, you model well the unconditional love our Heavenly Father has lavished on us.

Warmly and in your corner,

Amy

P.S. Here’s a resource for you: 14 Tips for navigating the messy middle of life.

Related articles: Dear Pastors, It’s me again {what a few days, eh?!} and Another open letter to pastors {lessons from the comments section}

Amy

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  1. […] An open letter to pastors {a non-mom speaks on Father’s Day} (messymiddle.com) […]

  2. Loren Pinilis June 16, 2012 at 3:08 am - Reply

    I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that most pastors are men. It’s cool for a male pastor to praise mothers – he sounds like a macho jerk if he just calls them out. But at the same time, it sounds macho to pump up dads and sounds humble and challenging to call them out.
    But this is a great letter. I’ve thought similar things many times. It’ll be interesting to see if this creates as much of a stir :)

    • Amy June 16, 2012 at 5:34 am - Reply

      Loren, good point on many pastors being men and that they’ll be jerks for calling moms out. So far not quite the stir the Mother’s Day Letter (not surprised, but I had hoped for more for men/dads). Amy

  3. La Vonne Glanville June 16, 2012 at 3:37 am - Reply

    As a mom who stays away from church on Mother’s Day….. I agree totally with you. So pastors, listen up!

  4. Brandon June 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    I tend to stay away from chuch on Fathers Day. I lost my Daddy 19 years ago when I was 11. It still hurts. I also hate how there are always father/son and mother/daughter events.

    Also to nitpick, you mentioned adoptive and biological fathers seperately in that one paragraph. Speaking as someone who was adopted, there really is no difference between the two, and it irritates me when I see it (also seen as adoptive mothers, adopted children). As I see it, the only difference between having children biologically or adoptively is how the stork got to the house.

    • Amy June 17, 2012 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your thoughts Brandon! Amy

  5. Father’s Day « Jaggi June 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    […] An open letter to pastors {a non-mom speaks on Father’s Day} (messymiddle.com) […]

  6. Kitty June 18, 2012 at 2:11 am - Reply

    Hi Amy, as a married non-mum (maybe one day but it’s quite a challenge for us in that department!) I loved your mother’s day piece and I love this just as much… Love and blessings from the UK :)

    • Amy June 18, 2012 at 11:18 am - Reply

      Thanks Kitty, I’m enjoying a cuppa as I respond. Thanks for the UK shout-out!

  7. exegete77 June 21, 2012 at 7:08 am - Reply

    Once again, Amy, thanks for this sensitive, timely letter. As a pastor I take these to heart.

    Last year I wrote about Father’s Day: http://exegete77.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/the-hard-part-of-father%E2%80%99s-day-%E2%80%94-but-the-best-part/

    Rich

    • Amy June 21, 2012 at 11:52 am - Reply

      Rich, thanks for reading and sharing what your post. I enjoyed it. Amy

  8. jack June 23, 2012 at 8:49 am - Reply

    If you really want to honor men, then you should really stop with the “men are intimidated by my accomplishments” narrative. The “man up” tone you took in that Mirror Dimly post was just another insulting swipe at men in general.

    As a successful Christian never-married man in his dearly 40s, I absolutely refuse to consider marrying most Evangelical women. They are proud, defiant, and entitled.

  9. jack June 23, 2012 at 8:50 am - Reply

    By the way, there is nothing even remotely “scary” or “powerful” about teaching English.

    Please.

    • Amy June 23, 2012 at 10:31 am - Reply

      Hi Jack, because of where I am, I am not able to say all that I do. I understand your take based on the information you have! Blessings! Amy

      • jack June 23, 2012 at 9:49 pm - Reply

        I think you have not correctly interpreted the response you are getting from men. Any man who hears a woman saying that she knew she was destined for leadership from an early age is going to be highly suspicious.

        That will be interpreted by most men as “I always thought I knew better than everyone else. I should be telling people what to do.”

        Leadership is not a position for an entitled elite. Leadership is placed on people who have shown a lifetime of service to others. Deciding as a child that one is destined to be a leader is like deciding as a child that you should be King or Queen. It is the child-mind desiring to rise above their peers as an exercise in self-validation.

        Thinking oneself to be a natural leader at too early an age is really a sign that humility is lacking. When that misperception continued unabated for thirty years, I would submit that humility has yet to make an appearance.

        Without knowing you, I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you have actually accomplished the things you say you have accomplished.

        That said, you probably hold those achievements in higher esteem than anyone else probably would. This turns men off. This is the source of your “intimidation” confusion. Men don’t like dealing with men or women who have a proud, defiant attitude about their accomplishments.

        Most people are not all that impressive. If you think you are intimidating people, then you are probably engaging in humble-bragging, where you boast about your accomplishments in a way that appears humble. From your comments on Mirror Darkly, I can say that veil is mighty thin, by the way.

        In my profession, I have had to deal with many, many men who are so eager to prove their competence, they develop a bluff veneer of bravado. They are hyper-competitive about everything. Trust me, I am not intimidated by the newbies with a quarter or less of my experience.

        But I am annoyed to no end by these hyper-competitive guys who can’t just tone it down and be a regular Joe. Oddly, the vast majority of them eventually learn the humility they need.

        Why am I writing to you?

        Because your attitude is widespread among Evangelical women, even as they blame men for the lack of marriages. Why would I want to marry some hyper-competitive woman who is going to turn daily married life into on contest after another.

        I already get that at work.

        When women say that men can’t “handle” a strong woman (as a wife) that is like complaining that after spending a long say in a coal mine, a man should be able to handle coming home to a wife that smells like coal dust.

        I read your comments. You are so anxious and eager to prove yourself, to blame men for the single status of so many women. But you seem not the slightest bit interested in what men want, or who men are, other than your very adolescent jab at mens’ supposed immaturity.

        Who wants to marry that?

        • Amy June 23, 2012 at 9:54 pm - Reply

          Jack, I’m sorry you’ve met difficult women (and I’m guessing a few men) in Evangelical circles. I’ve met some too, but, at least in my experience, the great men and women outweigh the turkeys. You’re right, who would want to marry a turkey?! Blessings, Amy

  10. jack June 23, 2012 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    So you’re going to stop with the “men are intimidated” bit then?

  11. jack June 23, 2012 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    Seriously – go re-read your comments. You basically walked into the room, slapped the faces of the men with your comment, and now you are pretending to be an outside observer of “other people’s” bad behavior.

    You need to own your comments and defend them or recant them.

  12. […] An open letter to pastors {a non-mom speaks on Father’s Day}(messymiddle.com) […]

  13. Caitlin June 9, 2014 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    Can I have your permission to use this (with credit to you of course) for my father’s day blog?

  14. Joanna June 12, 2014 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Hi Amy:
    This is how I adapted your post into a prayer for our community at The Vancouver Eastside Vineyard Church:

    Today we honour and bless all the men of our community and want to honour the the broad spectrum of fathering, whether it be through biological fathering, step-fathers, fathers-in-law, adoptive fathers, biological fathers, foster fathers, spiritual fathers and mentors. You are brave men, mighty men of valor.
    to those who are faithful husbands and fathers, we honour you and thank you for the way you love your wives and families, for you enrich us as a community and strengthen us all with your love for them.
    to those who are fathers of children you never knew who were aborted, and you still wonder about today, we stand with you in your longings for your children and trust in the hope of heaven with you.
    to those who have regrets in the ways you have parented, we lament with you, and we stand in gratefulness for the redemption of God, which knows no bounds.
    to those who became dads this year, you RADIATE joy like the sun, we bask in the glow and shine with you.
    to those who lost children or grandchildren this year, and the ache is so profound that words are inadequate, we grieve with you.
    to those who walk the paths of infertility but are supposed to be “the strong one”, we rejoice in the strength of Christ in your weakness, and thank you for the times you allow us the honour of sharing in your vulnerability.
    to those who aren’t providing for their families in ways that they want, we honour your longing hearts, and pray with you for prosperity and wisdom, and to see provision through the eyes of your Heavenly Father.
    to those who had horrific fathers and are doing the best that you can, we see Jesus in you, don’t give up.
    to those who are co-parenting and are not able to be with their children as much as they want, we celebrate with you that in Jesus you are always enough.
    to those of you who are estranged from your children both relationally and physically, we stay with you in your grief, and pray for the gift of the prodigal to come to your family.
    to those you who have lost your fathers and feel like orphans, we pray the comfort of the Father and Mother hearts of God to surround you.
    to those who did not grow up with good fathers and it has impacted their view of God, we pray for vision to see clearly with the eyes of your hearts the way God sees.
    to those of you who love fathering in all is many forms, and walk honourably in the role, and thank you for the gift you are to us.
    We acknowledge fathering in all its forms as it reflects the Image of God by protecting new life, encouraging those on his path, and living with the tension of providing both freedom and a safety net. When you delight in the children in your lives and in our community, we see a picture of the way God delights in us and how God allows you as men to reflect that aspect of Him. We bless you today and always. Amen.

  15. Tracy June 15, 2014 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    Amy,

    I loved your piece on Mother’s Day so much that I wanted something similar for Father’s Day. I came here and then took some of what you said and modified your Mother’s Day list to Fathers, including some of the additional types of experiences here. I have posted it on my facebook page and will link them back here. I hope this is acceptable. This is my post…

    “On Mother’s Day, I shared a portion of a piece called, “An Open Letter to Pastors on Mother’s Day.” It recognized many different women for whom Mother’s Day is painful. Today I went to see what she had to say about Father’s Day. It’s not quite as complete but I thought she had some lovely points. So, I have adapted it from her initial message and included additional points she shared.

    So, today I honor Fathers…
    -To those who experienced the birth this year of their first child—we celebrate with you
    -To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you
    -To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you
    -To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you
    -To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, disappointment, feeling like you must be the strong one – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.
    -To those who are foster dads, mentor dads, and spiritual dads – we need you
    -To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you
    -To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you
    -To those who are co-parenting and are not able to be with their children as much as they want – we mourn with you
    -To those who aren’t providing for their families in ways that they want – we acknowledge your challenges and hope for better in the future for you
    -To those who lost their fathers this year – we grieve with you
    -To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own father – we acknowledge your experience
    -To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of fatherhood – we are better for having you in our midst
    -To those who found out years later of children they never knew who were aborted (and they wonder about them today) – we remember them and you on this day
    -To those who encouraged or supported a partner through abortion – we remember them and you on this day
    -To those who are single and long to be married and fathering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be
    -To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths
    -To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you
    -To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you
    -To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart
    -And to those who’s partners are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you

    This Father’s Day, we walk with you. Fathering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

    I’d also like to include something unconventional. I spent 2.5 years trying to get pregnant using donor sperm. So, thank you to those young men who donated and gave me the opportunity to at least try. ”

    Again, thank you for providing the framework for this recognition of all forms of parenthood.

    Tracy

  16. […] An open letter to pastors {a non-mom speaks on Father’s Day}(messymiddle.com) […]

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