Reflecting on Father’s Day 2020, a few thoughts...
First of all, this will be the first Father’s Day for me without calling my father who was called home in November of last year. That day will be different as the days since November have been different.
Second, I am grateful to God for blessing me with my father and mother and the lessons and memories that come from them (positive and negative) that inform a bit of what I have tried to be and do as a father for our daughters and even our grandchildren. I am grateful for many sources of influence that have led me in this most important role. I know I haven’t been a perfect father so I am also grateful for forgiveness and how I have been taught even in those mistakes and maybe how that has also helped our daughters in their journey as parents of my grandkids.
I’m also very aware that Father’s Day and Mother’s Day or Grandparents Day are not always pleasant days because images and memories of fathers, mothers, grandparents and others are not always positive for many people. For many those relationships were not very good - for some they were abusive and demeaning and the scars run deep and the pain is felt daily.
Parenting is an important but very difficult job. It is unmatched in feelings of pride and reward, but it is often equally unmatched in its pain and struggle. The spiritual writer Henri Nouwen shared that complexity in his piece “The Tears of the Father” where he wrote…
“The father in the story of the prodigal son suffered much. He saw his younger son leave, knowing the disappointments, rejections and abuses facing him. He saw his older son become angry and bitter, and was unable to offer him affection and support. A large part of the father's life has been waiting. He could not force his younger son to come home or his older son to let go of his resentments. Only they themselves could take the initiative to return.”
So much of parenting is really about our own response to what our children do or don’t do - responses not reactions. We often focus on them, but I have come to know it's most important to focus on ourselves - what am I thinking, what am I feeling, what am I remembering, how do I really want to be and what is best for my child right now, not what is best for me? Working through all of that could in turn result in what we do or say to our children. What we say or do with our children especially after times of conflict is so important for them as we all “return home”, that is as we all come back to that place of peace in our lives together - knowing and experiencing love and forgiveness and value in this family. All of that greatly influences what they feel about their parents and their home and eventually what they come to feel about themselves.
In that series Nouwen went on to observe…
“The perfect love of our heavenly Father includes as well as transcends all the love that a father and mother can have for their children. We may think about the two hands of God embracing us as a mother's hand and a father's hand: one caressing, consoling, and comforting, the other supporting, encouraging, and empowering. We too are called to be father and mother to those who want to come home.”
I’m grateful for fathers, mothers and all who have served in those roles for us. I am grateful for family, peace, forgiveness and home - the places we live as well as home in our hearts and minds by God’s grace.
(quotes from Bread for the Journey Henri J.M. Nouwen)