In conversation about my Mother’s Day Reflections, Margaret Lemmons jokingly insisted that to be gender-fair I should feature Father’s Day equally. So, Margaret, here goes.
From Google I learned that Father’s Day was started by a Spokane woman, Sonora Smart Dodd. This idea came while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. She thought her dad needed celebratory gratitude for his faithful care of a young family early left motherless. Next year a ceremony took place, and the idea spread. The special day was recognized by Congress in 1956 and designated for the third Sunday of June by President Nixon in 1972. Mark your calendars!
This Spokane woman’s reflections upon a father’s loving nurture exemplifies Paul’s admonition to the church at Ephesus: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6: 4)
Current culture seldom depicts fathers as training and instructing their children. Instead media portray men as macho drivers of ATVs squirreling through mud, or snarling and pointing guns at each other, or, alternatively, busying themselves at important executive tasks while leaving childcare to mama. Alas, in alarming numbers mama is left alone to provide that nurture, in homes and in schools.
Paul’s admonition not to “exasperate” children puzzles me. In early teen years most kids at times do become exasperated at parents (and parents reciprocate!) So Paul must mean more than dad foregoing nerdy clothes that embarrass the kids. Perhaps the synonym “infuriate” captures the meaning of the text. When reasonable expectations are not met we all become frustrated, sometimes even angry. It is even more so with children who are less able to articulate feelings, but who expect and deserve, whether acknowledged or not, fathers who provide godly training and instruction. And serve as role models.
Maybe this is a good time to honor fathers who do exemplify the kind of nurturing Paul admonishes, and for men to ponder their roles as nurturers in the home, in the school, in the community, in the church, and not to leave “training and instruction” up to the women folks.
Today I honor my father, Owen Roberts, who succumbed to pneumonia sixty-eight years ago. He was a good father, demonstrating strong Christian faith and providing ethical and spiritual direction. He gave us children a rational context that fostered trust in God, in ourselves, and in others, thus freeing us to mature confidently and creatively. Thank you, papa!
A maxim by Kahil Gibran captures the gist of such rational Christian discipline: “Knowledge without reason is like a house unguarded. And even Love, Justice, and Goodness avail little if Reason be not there too.” (Secrets of the Heart, Hallmark, 1968, p. 35).
Peace and joy!