So today was Father's Day. Our minister mentioned this point today, but it was on my mind first thing this morning. Why is it that on Mother's Day, the sermons are always about how wonderful mothers are, but when Father's Day rolls around, all of us fathers are a bunch of schmucks who can't get their act together? It is a wonder that fathers do not get a complex, even the best ones. I think a lot about my role as a father to three little girls. There is always something to worry about--money, school transitions, family interactions, etc. One thing I hope my children never have to worry about is my presence in their lives.
I have come to realize over the course of the last several years that a father's presence in his children's lives is a key part of their formation as adults. How they view themselves and how they experience and demonstrate love in the future has a whole lot to do with how they were loved and engaged by their fathers. Maybe I have come to this realization because there was a time when I was more concerned about "providing for them" than engaging them. I have decided that, though providing for our children's needs is an essential part of being a father, it is not even close to the most important role. Since going into full-time church ministry I have never made as much money as I did when I was teaching full time and worked at a church part time. There are things I would like to have and things I would like to give them that I probably never will. I have to remind them over and over again that sometimes the joy of going some place is being together, not buying a memento. I am sure they just love that conversation.
I grew up in a close family, but I don't think I understood what close family ties meant until I got married. My parents-in-law were both products of large extended families. They all lived very close to each other and so it made it interesting to go and visit them because, no matter where we went in town, we would run into some relative. These folks liked to talk, especially my father-in-law. They would get together and tell the same stories over and over again. It was annoying really. The stories rarely varied, and I could not figure out what the significance of telling the same stories again and again had for them. As I look back, I understand that the stories were their family currency. They did not grow up with much money, but what they had were stories, shared experiences that were very meaningful. Honestly, I wish I could hear them tell them one more time.
A family can't have stories to remember if the members are not present. Today I took my children to the zoo and we watched a movie together. We make it a priority that no matter what, we will sit down and have dinner together every night. I have known too many men in full-time ministry who have allowed their church duties to supersede their relationship with their families. I am determined to keep my priorities where they should be. What really is more important than pouring your life into your child's?
My prayer for this Father's Day: "Lord, help me to be an engaged father who teaches by example and not by absenteeism. Help me be the kind of father who makes it easier, rather than harder, for my children to call you Father. Amen."