Where's a Father When You Need Him?

I wish my father were here—not just because it’s Father’s Day and I become particularly sentimental when conversations turn to the legacy of dads and the lasting imprint of their love on the lives of their children. (I know very well not all grown up children are blessed with such happy memories of their father—which only deepens my gratitude for having the dad that I did.)

But I wish my father were here because of the sage perspective he used to offer. Call it old-fashioned wisdom. I don’t suppose he was a genius, but he had a savvy way of reading life and people and events that made sense to me. And given all the confusion that rooms-full of mainly fathers are creating these days in our nation’s political capital, I wonder how my dad would sort through what is beginning to feel like unmitigated chaos.

Perhaps he would quietly demur, were I to ask him for his perspectives on our non-stop litany of conflicting, competing headlines these days. Or maybe he would simply advise, “You’re better off, Son, not expending your time and energies on what will only become more complex and confusing as time races on.” Would his advice be the same about the church today? As an administrator, he knew and loved it deeply.

But whatever the counsel, I grew up believing, like countless other little boys, there was no greater somebody or anybody on earth than my own father! In fact I remember the time I was in a circle of young missionary boys and we were bragging about our dads, when mine happened to overhear our boyish chatter. “I was the toughest kid in my neighborhood,” my dad interrupted. “Every time the boys saw me coming, they all started running.” He paused, and I beamed with pride in my “tough guy” father. “But,” he went on, “they could never catch me!” As the other boys in the circle laughed with him, it took me a split second to realize he had just told the joke on himself—that he was no tough guy at all, but just another kid the bullies would chase. Oh well—he was still my hero.

And I still wish he were here. He’d be 90 years old this Father’s Day. But he died fifteen years ago, far too young for any father to leave. And he died encapsulated in the lockbox of dementia that meant we couldn’t say good-bye that last day I hugged and kissed him. I remember sitting out on the terrace of his nursing home, each of us with a cup of ice cream and those too-small wooden spoons stuck to the bottom of the cup. A small plane droned overhead, and Dad, a chaplain with the Civil Air Patrol and a private pilot in his day, instinctively looked up to track the noise in the blue California heavens. His eyesight undimmed, he quickly spotted the plane. And without comment or even expression, he followed it. Not a word. Just his ice cream and me beside him that last memory together.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14). Frail feet of clay and bodies of dust are we all, dads, children and moms, too. But on this Father’s Day, I thank God for being immeasurably greater than even the most idealized image of “Father” we’ve secretly carried inside of us all these years.

“Our Father in heaven.”

Comments

Dear pastor, It is hard to realize that there is nobody behind us now - that we are the older generation. I bless my dad and my mother too for their devotion to giving their children the best things they could. They introduced us to beautiful music and to the love and knowledge of nature and of the Bible. By financial standards I guess we were poor, but we didn't know it or fret about it. We were blessedly happy and content with our life and with each other. I believe those are God's standards for real happiness. I can tell you were very close with your father and I feel your pain in telling about his last days. Don't you long for the day when you and he will meet and he will be complete in mind and body - I long for that day too when I will be reunited with my dad (and Jim and so many others). Your friend - Rebecca

I empathize with your pain, Dwight. My Dad passed away in October 2015 and I miss him so much. It's no fun being the oldest male Strayer in the family line! I recently completed reading over 1600 pages of Rick Atkinson's history of WWII from Operation Husky in Sicily to the fall of Berlin--the key years (1943-45) my Dad was chasing the Germans back. Memorial Days are more special now than ever--and some day (we hope soon), the greatest of all Memorial Days will bring our fathers from their tombs! Cheers, Brian

My father and parents divorced when I was very young. I do not remember living with him, yet there are four younger sibs. Anyway I have nice, gentle memories of summer visits to his and my grandmother's home in Chicago. Our father died at age 57. Thankfully our mom of nine is still living so we are not orphans yet. Thanks for sharing Pastor.

This is very sad Situation in reality Is being. I'll be in prayer. Thanks,jed

I knew your dad and mother. They were in the pacific northwest when we were there pastoring in Spokane Washington and I was working in the conference, as a printer and secretary. I remember one particular retreat out on Cannon beach Oregon where I got to know them more. I talked with them there, since I had spent my childhood with my parents in Peru, and My father had spent his in Argentina and Brazil. And at that time they were in Uruguay. We found a lot in common with your mom and dad. They took a particular interest me there. It meant so much to me. Now all of them are resting, waiting for Jesus to wake them all up. But the loss is still there, we can't talk to them and bask in their love and care. I understand how you feel, how we long for the Day when Jesus returns and raises them up again. Meanwhile we can still bask in the love and care that Jesus bestows on us. I thank God for your parents who understood missions and all it entails.

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