My wife and I watched a television movie called “See You In My Dreams.” It was about a rancher who was overwhelmed by his problems. He was not a good role model in any sense of the word. He drank excessively, was violent, overly stubborn and finally drove his wife and son away from home. And he never changed. Even though he loved his wife and son, for him, fatherhood was an accident.
On the other hand, a man tells an interesting experience from his youth. He said that when he was around 13 and his brother was 10 that his father had promised to take them to the circus. But at lunchtime there was a phone call; some urgent business required his father’s attention downtown. So he and his brother braced themselves for the disappointment. Then, he said he heard his father say, “No, I won’t be down. It will have to wait.”
When his father returned to the table, his mother smiled, “The circus keeps coming back you know.”
“Yes, I know,” said the father. “But childhood doesn’t.”
Undoubtedly, the man telling the story saw his father as a gift.
My subject for this article is “Fatherhood: Gift or accident?” And, of course, I’m writing this partly out of my own life as I experienced my father as a gift.
Fatherhood is a gift when family life is prioritized. As the years go by, I recognize more and more how blessed I was to have had a good father. My father was not only a good businessman, but a man who placed a priority on his family. My mother died when I was 10 years old, and my father did a lot toward raising us, as did our devoted step-mother.
I think this incident provides insight into my father. Just two weeks before he died, I called him concerning a quandary I was in about entering the doctorate program at the seminary. I knew he didn’t have the answer, but I just wanted to talk with him about it. We had a good discussion but the issue remained unresolved. A couple of nights later my father called me back just to see how I was doing. And that was typical of my father. He was always concerned about my best interest.
So, I am prejudiced. But Jesus must also have been prejudiced. His father must have played a major role in his life. Though Joseph died young, nevertheless, he certainly impacted Jesus’ life. Evidently, he taught Jesus to be a good carpenter. And Joseph must have teamed up with many to give Jesus a strong family experience.
Now, what did Jesus call God when he wanted to make God real to other people? How did he picture God? You know. He pictured God as a father. And I’m sure Jesus was enhanced in having that picture by the good example of his own human father.
Fatherhood is a gift when a close relationship with God exists. I have a friend who shared with me why he never really got involved with the church during his earlier life. He said that when he was a little boy his dad took him to a big church, dropped him off at the curb and said he would pick him up in an hour. The friend shared that he was small and frightened and didn’t know where to go or what to do.
How much better it would have been if that friend’s father had gone to church with his son that morning. Might have saved him from some meaningless years.
Fatherhood is a gift when love is expressed. It’s true that “everybody gots a father,” as the little girl stated it in class so many years ago. But there are fathers and there are fathers. How true. How utterly true. The fathers who are gifts to their families put their compassion into action. They love their families as Christ loved the church.
Let me mention just three ways that a father shows his love today for family. First, by taking responsibility rather than being passive. Kids and wives today want dads and husbands who are involved, who are affirming and who offer spiritual and moral direction.
Second, by giving himself rather than things. There is simply no substitute for time or the simple gift of giving oneself. Recent studies show that the happiest and best adjusted children are those who get considerable amounts of quantity and quality time with their parents.
Third, by listening rather than lecturing. The late Erma Bombeck wrote a short piece on the things she would do if she could live her life over, and interestingly enough she began her list by saying, “I would have ... listened more and waxed less.”
Fatherhood: Gift or accident? It’s intended to be a gift, but what it will be is entirely left up to us.