Father's Day Blues
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RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--Hey dads, another Father's Day is coming up.
We can hardly wait, right?
If the kids remember Father's Day at all, they'll probably give us cards humorously noting our physical and mental decline. Maybe they'll take us to lunch when we'd just as soon hit the couch for a nap (due to the aforementioned physical decline) or watch a ballgame on TV. But we'll go along with a smile, pretending we feel special while the kids pretend they're making us feel special.
"That's why Dad always responded so positively back when you used to give him -- and I hope you no longer do this, although I understand it still happens, even in 21st century America -- a tie," observed writer Dave Barry a few years ago. "In my entire life, I have met two men who were genuinely interested in ties. Both of these men were in the tie industry.
"Dads are so good at feigning appreciation that they even were able, years ago, to pretend they were happy to receive cologne. This was back in the dark days of cologne-giving, which mercifully came to an end after the horrible 1986 tragedy in Cincinnati wherein a 72-year-old man's house collapsed under the weight of the estimated 2,000 unopened bottles of Old Spice that he had stored in his attic."
Let's face it, guys. Father's Day is the Rodney Dangerfield of holidays, the get-no-respect little brother of Mother's Day. Interestingly, the American version of Father's Day was first proposed in 1909 by a grateful daughter, Sonora Smart Dodd. Her father, a Civil War veteran, singlehandedly raised six children after his wife died in childbirth. But the observance was mocked for years and written off as a promotional gimmick cooked up by the greeting card and men's clothing businesses. It wasn't formalized until 1966, when Lyndon Johnson proclaimed the third Sunday of June as Father's Day. Richard Nixon signed a law six years later making it an official holiday.
Dads, our special day probably won't ever achieve the popularity or social significance of Mother's Day (cue violins). But that's OK. We're not sensitive Moms; we're macho Dads. We don't need a lot of recognition. That's our story, at least, and we're sticking to it.
Still, Father's Day is a great opportunity to remember, before we fall asleep on the couch, what being a good father is about.
"A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society," Billy Graham once said.
A good father takes care of business. He provides food, shelter and physical and emotional security for his family. But that's just the beginning. Within the context of marriage, he loves his wife and the mother of his children -- and he makes sure that he regularly expresses that love in front of the children.
A good father loves his children unconditionally. If he's at home, he hugs them -- every day. He says the words "I love you"--— every day, several times if possible. That's not touchy-feely; it's what your children need, even when they become obnoxious teens and pretend they don't. Read 1 Corinthians 13 to see what God's love looks like in action.
A good father teaches his children right from wrong. He disciplines them firmly but not abusively. "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord," the Apostle Paul counsels in Ephesians 6:4. Your temporary, God-given authority over your children doesn't give you the right to dominate or manipulate them.
A good father leads and encourages his children. He is available 24/7, regardless of the hour or circumstance, regardless of how far his "child" has advanced into adulthood. He spends time. He pays attention. He listens to his children, and he expects his children to listen to him. He offers constructive criticism, sometimes strongly worded, but never in the form of condemnation. He issues orders, but is open to appeal.
Most of all, a good father models what it is to be a man, a husband, a father and a child of God. "My father didn't tell me how to live," recalled one thankful son. "He lived -- and let me watch him do it."
After messing up, my Dad used to say, half-seriously, "Don't do as I do; do as I say." Sorry, but that won't work. If you claim to follow Christ, follow Him. Worship Him. Serve Him. Serve His church. Do the things He said to do in this life in plain sight of your children -- not for show but because you mean it.
Do your kids see you loving your neighbor? Do they see you making friends with hurting sinners and loving them into the Kingdom of God? Do they see you praying for the nations and taking action to get the Gospel to the lost of the world? Do they see you shedding a tear for the things that break the heart of God? If you don't, odds are they won't.
A good father frequently fails to live up to these standards. But he doesn't give up. He asks for forgiveness from God and his family and presses ahead with the help of the Holy Spirit.
That's my meditation for Father's Day. Now I'm going to take a nap before the big game.
(c) 2010 Baptist Press. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Erich Bridges is global correspondent for the International Mission Board (imb.org).