We speak metaphorically about the “Father of our country” and even about “Father Christmas.” The song, “Faith of our Fathers” wistfully refers to the founding fathers of our nation and was written by Frederick W. Faber, who lived from 1814 to 1863. The faith they had, Faber asserted at the time, is “living still, in spite of dungeon, fire and sword.” He reminds us that it is a “holy faith” and one that we should hold on to until we die. The song is also evangelistic: “we will strive to win all nations to thee; and through the truth that comes from God, we shall then be truly free.”
Of course, all of our founding fathers did not have such a faith, although many of them did. Today, we pray that this stanza might be true: “Faith of our fathers, we will love both friend and foe in all our strife; and preach thee, too, as love know how by kindly words and virtuous life.” Imagine, if you can, men and women in our congress standing and singing this song. Sung with sincerity and intention, our nation’s leaders could signal repentance and love and we could see the kind of change that will promote justice in our society.
I became a father on April 11, 1959, a day before my own birthday, when our son Kirk was born. His entrance into the world took place in a jungle hospital in Papua New Guinea. Holding my little son in my arms, I dedicated him to the Lord. He didn’t know that for a long time, but he had a father (and mother) who wanted him to serve God in some way. He has, and three children and three grandchildren have blessed him and his wife Christine.
It is hard to evaluate one’s own success or failure as a father—and both will be true. Our children, bless them, tell us we did a good job, with some exceptions (too numerous to mention). We lived in villages and communities where the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” rang true. Many people in the villages and communities interacted with our kids and helped them to grow in a safe and healthy environment.
Due to a tubal pregnancy, Joice was told that she could not have children after Kirk, so I would not be a father again. However, there are even medical false prophets and our daughter was born in 1965 in a different jungle hospital.
I don’t know what my father was thinking when I was born. It was during the Great Depression and, as the third child, he and my mom probably wondered how to survive financially. My father loved me but, if he ever prayed for me, I did not know it. Every father has a story and his was full of pain and surprises. But he was ordained by God to be my father and I am thankful for him. I don’t know, however, that I ever told him so on Father’s Day.
When our children praise me on Father’s Day, I could contradict them: I like to hear words of praise from them, even though I say “yes, but…” and remind them of some less worthy Father’s days.
Today, instead of seeing anything in the newspaper to remind me of the “Faith of our Father’s,” I read about sales and the “great gift ideas for dad.” Or a patriotic cap and a T-shirt inscribed with “Greatest Father in the World”?
If I liked fishing, they could get me a Shimano Stradic CI + Spinning Reel for only $149.97, marked down from $229.99. There are also numerous “hot buys” for dad: men’s offroad clogs, a wi-fi connected option to monitor the weather, or a S&W M&P Bodyguard 380 semi-auto pistol. I’m not off the road much these days and the weather forecast for the next three months is “hot, with a 10% chance of rain.” My bodyguard is a semi-automatic brand of deodorant, meaning that it has to be applied mechanically.
All the fathers (and mothers) who read this should rejoice in the relationship they have with their children. Hopefully, it can in some sense mirror the relationship Solomon had with the Lord, “by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David” (1 Kings 3:3).
Or, as Hallmark would say “Happy Father’s Day to the man of my heart, the father of our children, the love of my life.” “Thank you for all the ways you go above and beyond every day for our family. The kids and I are so lucky to have you.” Priceless? No, the card will cost you $5.99, on sale.