Sunday was Father’s Day. Duh.
In our day and age it seems more common for people to take to Social Media–i.e. Twitter, Facebook and the like–to express gratitude to their dads. I’m half certain the gratitude is not real, at least not entirely.
We live in a day and age where fatherlessness is a huge problem, as is fatherhood where the dad is barely around.
I suspect I’m not alone in my sheer apathy to Father’s Day. Part of my issue is I feel it is yet another made-up holiday for Hallmark to sell more cards and candies–the other notable ones being Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day–though I give the latter a pass since it is at least based on a historical person, who by all accounts was actually worthy of much aplomb.
Where the real angst begins in thinking of Father’s Day is for those who are missing their father because he has been taken away from them by life’s most inevitable status–death. For others, the loss of a father is simply due to the absence of the father via geographical relocation.
For others still, Father’s Day is a cruel reminder of their father–who though he always stayed a part of the family, never led it, or at least never really came across as being there when he was there.
In a white, middle-class environment such as the one I come from, the third of those options is the most likely. It is most common, sadly.
Hallmark brings up the feelings I always thought I’d dealt with, forcing me once again to face the fact I have a Father who stayed, but not really. I’d love to explain why Father’s Day is so hard for me, but to get there, I must first touch on something else which happened yesterday.
Well-known Presbyterian Pastor Tulian Tchividjian (if you can say his name once you’re impressive, twice amazing, three obviously Superman) resigned yesterday from Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The reason: “an inappropriate relationship”. In other words: Adultery.
On Father’s Day, it came out the father of Gabe, Nate and Genna Tchividjian had “an inappropriate relationship”. They may have known previously, but they certainly knew as of Father’s Day. And the sting was clearly felt on the day the world tells them they’re supposed to celebrate their dad.
But how could they?
This was a sad day for the American Church in general–of course it was also triumphant in a sense with the celebration at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina following the tragic shooting there a mere four days prior.
Take it from a child who has suffered from a father who had “an inappropriate relationship”. As one who fits in that category, I’ve learned a lot. And I can honestly say, the primary people my heart breaks for in this case of infidelity are Tulian’s three children.
See the problem is in our American culture we’ve believed the lie that a father’s primary role as father is to teach his son–or daughter–to play catch when they’re but a babe, coach his little league teams, take him to baseball games, then when he’s older teach him to drive and then pay for college.
What’s the problem with that expectation model? Two things at least.
There’s nothing wrong with a father doing any of these things–and I’d say yes a good father probably should do all of them–but it is quite the incomplete list. Where’s the expectation for a father to raise his children in the way of the Lord?
Now I must backtrack for a second, the one thing my father did besides the majority of the list above, is he did show me the importance and benefit of the means of grace–prayer, personal devotions in the morning, going to church, etc.
So he did set me on a path whereby I could develop a relationship with the Lord on my own. And I’m forever thankful to have that a part of my story.
But when my dad, and Tulian in this instance, left the boundaries of their marriage covenant, they tore apart every single piece of good they’d built in the discipleship of their children.
See there’s a truth we too often forget: A Father’s first priority is not to his children, but to his wife. If he loves her well, fathering will take care of itself naturally.
The most important gift a father can give his child–boy or girl–is to show them how a man is to love his wife. Why? Because in showing them how a husband loves his wife he’s doing something bigger, he’s showing his kids how Christ loves the church.
When he doesn’t love his wife the way Christ loves the church, he paints a false picture of the gospel for his children.
My heart goes out to the Tchividjian’s in general–Tulian included. Certainly Kim–his wife since 1994, and mother of their three children–should be in the prayers of the church.
But for me, it really is his three children who I feel for most dearly. It’s probably because in them I see a part of myself. I have never, nor could ever, be a wife who has suffered through being cheated on.
I have a been a child who came home just two days after the memorable Super Bowl between the St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots played in the Louisiana Superdome–which ultimately was the beginning of the Patriots’ dynasty–to find out my father had extramarital relations with another woman.
I was a freshman in high school at the time, trying to figure out this crazy world of high school and girls and how my weak faith related to it all. And then BOOM!–bombshell and it rocked me, rocked me hard like a hurricane.
I had been known previously by all my teachers as studious, courteous and a hard worker, the type who followed all the rules. For the remainder of my freshman year, I was a mess. I never got into drugs or even alcohol, but my teachers probably assumed I was.
I was completely unmotivated and probably depressed. The rock of my world–my parent’s relationship–was shaky now at best. Would it even survive? I knew not.
But this isn’t about me, per se. The point is Tchividjian’s children. Gabe is old enough to now be married himself. Nate is preparing to go off to college, so he’s a bit older than I was, but probably in more potential danger even then I was because, well, college.
Genna–the couple’s only girl–is closer to the age I was, and by all appearances, a fairly normal teenage girl (at least today) who uses Social Media like it’s going out of style.
Even today–one day after the announcement of her father’s resignation at church–she has been active on Twitter. Perhaps it’s a coping mechanism. It’s quite possible it hasn’t hit any of them yet.
But at some point will. At some point, it will cause great weeping and mourning. We can only hope and pray weeping is the extent of it.
Perhaps I’m too transparent. It may be.
But for me, as I reflect on my father’s infidelity, it has led me to question my own ability to get married, to be a good husband and father.
Of course I understand the gospel provides grace for failures, and grace even to lead us out of temptation and into his marvelous light. In fact, the true message of Father’s Day should be, and in reality is, the message of Psalm 73:23-24:
Nevertheless I am continually with you;
You hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
When I picture this, I imagine myself a little boy, or perhaps a little girl–my future wife (when she was but a little girl), or my future daughter–being grasped by the hand of a perfect father, God, as he nudges her along with her legs probably dragging and unable to keep up.
And I imagine perfect patience from this father, willing to hold on as she fights to get her legs working, as she figures out this whole walking thing. But when the Psalmist wrote this, he wasn’t thinking this exactly.
He was a man, advanced in age at least enough where he would not need a father to drag him around physically. Yet he confesses he is no better than a child, in need of a father to guide him.
The truth is even the children with the best earthly father need a perfect father–the one who sacrificed his own Son, to make us his children, to adopt us, and make us brothers with Christ.
This day after Father’s Day should be a reminder we have him by faith and faith alone. May we cling to Him, hold onto Him, allow Him to take us by the hand and guide us.
May the result be forgiveness of our earthly fathers who fail us. And may it be that we as children of the most high God model our Heavenly Father more and more each day, being more like him as fathers (and mothers).
And may we remember–those who are fathers, and those who long to be–our first responsibility is to our wife. For it is in loving her well we can truly love our children well.