By Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church.
Father’s Day always brings me back to a specific memory of my own father. I was born with cerebral palsy and had half a dozen surgeries as a kid that helped me walk better on crutches until, at 38 years old, a severe car accident caused me to become a wheelchair user. One morning, when I was about 8 years old, I sat in my hospital bed anxiously waiting for the nurse to bring my pre-op shot. My dad sat quietly beside me, watching my anxiety grow by the second. Just before the nurse arrived, he leaned over and said, “Son, I would take that shot for you, if I could.”
My dad has since passed away, but his words have always stuck with me.
When I think of Father’s Day, I remember a dad who was loving and willing enough to take the pain for me.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have or had a father capable of showing all the qualities we really long for in a dad. Some are “strong and powerful providers,” but not particularly gentle and caring men. Perhaps they weren’t raised to be both. Or perhaps — while focusing on working hard and paying bills — developing other skills eluded them. Many fathers struggle their entire lives not knowing how to have the loving relationships they desire with their children. My own father was an active alcoholic while I was growing up; he finally went into treatment shortly after I was ordained in 1991. I believe he yearned for a deeper relationship with my sister and me but, because of his own lack of life experience, didn’t know how to make it happen. Fortunately, as he recovered, our relationship grew stronger.
For those who’ve haven’t heard the caring, loving words they long to from their dads — as well as the dads who badly want to say them but just can’t — Fathers’ Day can sometimes be a day of struggling with unresolved emotions.
For those whose fathers are deceased, or who suffer from the personal loss of a child, or the inability to bear children at all, it can be a terribly difficult day. We can all try to be sensitive and remember that this day of celebration brings as much pain as it does joy. On a theological level, what we’re really longing for is someone who’s both willing and powerful enough to make a difference in our lives. (Truth is, when it came to taking that pre-op shot for me, my dad couldn’t have made a difference no matter how willing he was.) The Old and New Testaments teach us that we can depend on God to be both.
In Biblical times, men held all the power, so we came to predominately imagine Father-God as provider, protector, warrior, etc., without also focusing on God’s tenderness, gentleness and caring. God did everything possible to show both aspects by sending Jesus to walk beside us, and to ultimately die on the cross and be raised, and God continues to show both through daily miracles and blessings.
Being willing to express gentleness and caring, along with having the power to protect and provide for us, is the sort of love we long for. On Fathers’ Day and every day,
that’s what we can honor and celebrate in the best of the men in our lives!
God loves you, and so do I!