Sunday was Father’s Day, a time set aside to remember and celebrate all the good we see in fathers. There is something right and wholesome about this, yet I am jolted by a heartbreaking irony. So many men I work with have been poorly fathered, and so many dads I know feel they are poor fathers. Where is the disconnect with Father's Day? This is a long and convoluted story, but we can cut to the heart of it with the help of the Apostle Paul.
In speaking about the new life we have in Christ, he penned these striking words: “For God did not give us a spirit of fear leading again to slavery, but He gave us the Spirit of sonship, and by him we cry, Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). Here is the answer to the disconnect.
Anything good and wholesome we have seen in fathers, in our own fathers, comes from reflecting the true Father in heaven. But we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of the Father (Rom. 3:23). And with that fall, men have lost their primary sense of being sons of the heavenly Father and their central orientation for fathering. Hence all the stories of abandonment and abuse, all the tales of violent and silent fathers, all the confusion and stress of being a father today.
What is the way back? Here it is: only true sons can be true fathers.
Every man experiences that loss of connection to the Father as one of fear and slavery to sin. Paul acknowledges the sinfulness of man but announces that this is no longer the story In which we must live. We have been given the Holy Spirit, whose primary job is to restore that feel of being beloved sons. How do we know this is happening? We start to sense God as Daddy (a good way to translate Abba). We realize that He delights to be called this and delights in our confidence in Him as Father. Bonding to Him as sons replaces fear, delight replaces slavery, and love starts to replace the lost places in our hearts. We start fathering as we have been fathered.
As for me, my own relationship with my father has been a difficult struggle over the years, and I too feel the mistakes I have made with my own children. Yet this weekend one of my daughters unexpectedly put her arm around me as we walked together. And the Father continues to teach me about walking as a beloved son. I am slowly learning to be a true son and a true father.
This is how the irony of Father’s Day becomes the glory of the Father. Only Jesus could do this.
And He has.
Postscript: The same basic process holds true for women, but that's a Mother's Day blog!