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Father's Day 2024


Luke 15:20

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.


Historically, fathers supply our basic needs: they give us shelter from the elements and a place to sleep. They also provide food, water, and clothing. Some fathers are present and involved. They connect with their children, are good listeners, and model the type of behavior they expect from their kids. They recognize that their children may have different skills, personalities, and life perspectives. Today, some fathers are wise enough to limit technology time. Some treat moms with dignity and respect. Some fathers make us feel warm, welcomed, trusted, appreciated, and respected. They make us feel special. Other fathers did none of these things.


I look at myself as a father and I have mixed evaluations. So Father’s Day is always an interesting time for me; it makes me think: I had a good father, but was I a good father? And what is a good father anyway? Studies show that more people dote over Mom on Mother’s Day – more gifts, cards, calls, money spent – than Dad on Father’s Day. What’s up with that?


Part of the reason is that there persists an attitude about fathers that developed in the early 1900’s. During that time, research studies did not place much importance on the role of the father, and his influence on the development and growth of his children was reported as "insignificant."  As late as 2010, one researcher named Pleck, concluded that “there is nothing inherent in fatherhood of distinctive importance to children”. If this is still society’s impression of fathers, why call them or send a card?


There has been an increase in research recently on the father’s role in parenting. Research indicates that children who have actively caring dads benefit in many ways: They are more prepared for school and are more academically successful in higher education. They start speaking earlier and are more verbally expressive. They grow up less prone to depression. They are less likely to be delinquent in school and get in trouble. And lastly, they have a more positive self-image.  The attitude toward the importance of fathers and father figures has changed. They are important.


Fathers and Mothers can both be nurturing, wonderful, effective, and sensitive parents, even with their disparate approaches. Empirical evidence supports the widely held belief that one of a mother’s roles is to calm and soothe their children when they are distressed. So, if a mother’s role is to soothe and calm, is it the Dad’s role to excite and agitate? That’s kind of how I saw myself with the kids. When it was bedtime, it was difficult for me not to horse around and get them all wound up.


The father’s role is different than the mother’s. Fathers invite their children to take chances and face challenges with confidence, and to take reasonable risks within a secure environment. This two-pronged nurturing approach works well: mother provides a haven of comfort and consolation, and father offers a secure base from which to explore and face challenges. Dad sends them out to climb trees and Mom tends to them when they fall out of the tree.  Works great.  So, it is understandable that a father’s love is less verbal than a mother’s. It seems slightly incongruous for a father to say “I love you… now go face your fears!” 


It is also understandable that there will be barriers to closeness between children, especially sons, and their fathers. Through all the father does, the message is: confidence, independence, and self-discovery. Ultimately this leads to separation.


Love and unconditional acceptance constitute the core of a warm father-child relationship. It is not necessarily what their fathers say, but what they do that shows the children how an honorable man conducts himself. Much of what children do when they grow up is learned as a child from their father and mother. A father’s example (both good and bad) plays an important role in the development of their children.


Research shows that fatherly attention and nurturing can be especially important to daughters. Studies show that absent, neglectful, or abusive fathers often lead to daughters with eating disorders, depression, drug and alcohol addictions, and sexual experimentation and often they are unable to develop healthy relationships with men. Where there are active fathers, the daughters are more ambitious in their careers, have greater self-worth, and have fewer incidences of sleep disturbances, obesity, high blood pressure, asthma, alcoholism, smoking, heart disease, chronic pain disorders, somatic symptoms, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autoimmune diseases.


While mothers often tell their children they love them, a father often demonstrates his love rather than speak it.  Research has shown that many fathers who have limited time with their child often learn how to “be in the moment,” to make the most of the time they have together.


Although we may want fathers to tell their children “I love you” more often, like mothers do, it is also important that fathers make their love known in their own fashion, even if it is without words. As we consider the diversity in nurturing, we recognize the different ways of embracing children in warm loving relationships. As Dad runs alongside his child, gripping the seat of the bicycle, he gives them the courage to race into the unknown with the understanding that someone loves them enough to stay close, yet trusts them enough to let go. From that understanding grows an appreciation for the mysterious type of love fathers provide.


Our fathers and mothers gave us our start; we have given our children their beginning and now it is up to them, as it has been for us, to take ownership of their lives and move forward despite parental efforts. Any hinderances and failures can be overcome; any ill mentoring, opinions, and judgments can be dismissed. That is a choice.


We are here today to express thanks to our fathers, stepfathers, foster-fathers, grandfathers, uncles, male companions-through-life, and whatever male-parental surrogates we have had in our lives. When we think about fathers, we may imagine the ideal father—someone who is always available; eager to guide, teach, and assist; encouraging and supportive. Perhaps that wasn’t our father.


So, today we acknowledge the good that our father figures provided for us, the lessons they taught us, and the love they gave us. No one does everything perfectly all the time, and part of Father’s Day for some is about forgiveness. No matter how evil and bad our DNA father was, we can thank him for getting us here, and setting an excellent example of how not to behave. Each father does the best he can with the knowledge and experience he has. We can understand that, as we attempt to be the best version of ourselves.  


Yes, today we thank and bless fathers everywhere, as well as our Heavenly Father. My prayer is that the love we direct to our fatherly influences ever increases our ability to receive and express love toward all people. Then we will make the most of the opportunity this day provides.


Happy Father’s Day to one and all! 


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