Monday, June 22, 2009

Father’s Day Reflection

Yesterday was Father’s Day. Father’s Day is one of those holidays that, for some, carry mixed feelings. So many sons and daughters are burdened with emotional and relational “baggage”, when it comes to the subject of their fathers, and long to hear words of affirmation and/or a heartfelt apology from their fathers for sins that were committed against them. Whereas, on Mother’s Day, there are usually sermons in church extolling mothers, on Father’s Day men get lectures—yearly reminders of the many ways in which we fail.

Well, on this morning after Father’s Day, I want to go on record saying I have no complaints to bring against my “father” and I am seeking no apologies. As you may remember, my great-grandfather—“Pa Bill”, as I knew him—fulfilled the role of “father” in my life. He died almost 20 years ago. Was Pa Bill a perfect man? No, not at all. He had many faults. Some of them were glaring faults, and I’m not sure he was ever aware of any of them. But, honestly, that doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t desire any apology.

On the contrary, if Pa Bill were still alive, I would want to apologize to him, for I owe the greater debt. Like all too many children, adolescents, and 20-somethings today, I was stupid. I thought I knew so much, and didn’t realize how truly ignorant I was. Like so many young people today, I was often disrespectful and insolent. I really was not that way to anyone else except Pa Bill. You see, Pa Bill had little formal education. There were a lot of things he did not know, and sometimes he did or said things that reflected that lack of knowledge. I knew he didn’t know, and looked down on him in arrogance, as if he was stupid and I was the one who knew so much. After he died, I realized I was the fool.

In those months and years after Pa Bill’s death, and still today, my only consolation was the gospel. The only reason I can forgive myself today is because I know God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven me. I confessed my sins to God a long time ago. If he were alive today, I would also confess those same sins to Pa Bill.

And I would do two more things. I would tell Pa Bill how much I love him. The fact of the matter is, with the perspective that comes only with time and maturity, I now love Pa Bill deeply. Secondly, I would tell Pa Bill “thank you” because, despite his faults, he did so many things—most things— right. As a father of two boys, I now see that Pa Bill was an excellent father in the ways that counted most.

Except, when I mouthed off, Pa Bill really should have given me a sanctified butt-whipping.

Click here to read the tribute to Pa Bill that I wrote for Father’s Day 2008.

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