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