Sunday, June 16, 2013

In Which We Celebrate Father's Day

I spent most of this day before the day in the midst of my friends who come to this little town from oceans far away. They study and we do life together--we talk a lot and eat even more. Several times throughout the day's festivities the topic of Father's Day has popped up. I've kept my responses simple and when asked what I will do to celebrate my dad, I found myself seeking joy from a Father that doesn't change because let's just face it--mine is always up and down.

As I graciously broke the silence that often follows my response of the fact that I actually don't have relationship with my dad at this point, I pushed these girls from Egypt, Vietnam, and Indonesia to tell me more about their traditions. Well, we actually only celebrate Mother's day in my country, the first replied. Yeah, me too. We also do not celebrate the day of the father, the second and third chimed in.

The obvious follow up--well why do they only celebrate the mother in all three of these countries?

Their answers were a bit incomplete and it's left me thinking. I guess knowing this day was coming, hasn't left me exactly looking forward to it this week. But every single time the topic comes up, God is binding up these wounds and all I can see is grace written across my wall.

A year ago, I remember weeping through this day and retreating to the privacy of four walls that separated me from any possible joy that could touch me for these twenty-four hours. Celebrating would be wrong--I should feel really bad today, really sad, I remember thinking. At the time, I was in the home of a man who I was learning to trust as father figure and the wounds were oozing steady at that point. I remember feeling like I could never see past the pain, like it would never let up. And you know what, feeling the pain made me feel like he was experiencing it too. Like my somber attitude would make him hurt, make him pay. And that was only gift I wanted to offer up to him that day. Let's just make that clear.

I remember hearing the flip of the calendar would heal and counting it rubbish. But a year later, I know so intimately the perfect Father and His love is redeeming this charred, broken one.

A powerful conversation happened this week, with the dad of the kiddos I nanny for. He spoke of his life, the journey to here and now, and I listened to him share of a road I have watched my own dad wonder on down so many years of his life. The difference between the two men so small on the surface, after all what is two years without a drink when it comes to choosing your family? I only wish my dad could have also "gotten it" when I was an infant as he has done for his boys. I told him what a blessing it is that he could be fully present and engaged with his boys, the way his decision to choose them over the bottle will set them apart from most of their peers. All day through I found myself reminding the boys every chance I got how awesome their daddy is and they soaked it up with such joy.

And now as I wrestle with this concept of only celebrating the mother's in the world abroad, my flesh longs to move to a nation where this is the norm. To not have to have a day dedicated to remembering all that my dad is not and all that I wish he were. It's like Father's Day offers the pull to remember the pain he has caused as I witness the scars rise up on my arms in the process. But today, I realize just how off I am in that mindset, unbiblical even.

In fact, I think we don't honor the father's in our culture enough--the ones that are seeing the call. They are broken and they mess up, they are humbled by their role and in continual pursuit of fulfilling it. They are the warriors that find strength in the working of Christ in their weaknesses. These are the men that gown me in redemption and crown me in grace. They are the ones through whom I know Christ is all sufficient in my life, not by their words as much as the sharpening they offer and the trust they guard well.

On this Father's day I worship with arms raised high amidst the body, because keeping them down seems to rob Him of the glory He is due and work on the cross that is setting me free to more joyfully surrender my heart to Him as abba Father. Lord, I surrender all. God has opened up my house and table to two dads [and families] that have truly fulfilled the call before their wives and kiddos, pulling me up under their arm as well. What a blessing it was to honor them today, as small and insufficient as it might have been. I see redemption this year, in the body of Christ before Jesus is even back. It is both humbling and joy-filled. A gift that not many girls in my shoes have been offered. And today, it is changing the way I interact with this day of celebration. I would do this every week, if I could, because these men in our lives, they need to be reminded. They need to be encouraged and challenged by the call.

We need not over-simplify the day with golf balls and hats [or in my case Duck Dynasty paraphernalia and ping-pong awesomeness], as these temporal items could never inscribe the greatness of a dad fulfilling His God-given role to lead his home, honor his wife, discipline his children, maintain his position as provider and protector. The way both of these men have allowed me to partake in various degrees and portions of that is an experience that words fall short of expressing. My heart is softer this year, my wounds are sealing and these men, well, God's used them in countless details of the process.

As it stands, I probably won't call dad today. It's passing by the year mark of no words spoken and I just see Jesus more. There is guilt and sadness that lingers into these later hours, and yet I don't really want to give this day to him, because when I look at the legacy implanted as of late, it's not his to celebrate. And for now, that is where God has me and by His gracious leading, I have to be okay with that. There is still a significance to the day, one that I feel I have fulfilled in honoring the men that have guarded me and graciously walked with me, both physically here in Fayetteville and lovingly, prayerfully back in St. Louis.

Friends, I know many of you can relate on various levels to the short-comings and absences of your own dads in your life. I know the pain and guilt can seen overbearing in seasons, especially on this one day each year as your every glance is met with laughter and rejoicing of those around you. And maybe, it just makes you more angry and grievous. We are a generation that wants to be found. There is a grieving anytime there is a loss. And for so many of us, Father's Day becomes symbolic of the loss. So our natural response, of course, is withdrawing into grief and shame even.

Fatherlessness creates an appetite in the soul that demands fulfillment. -Josh Sowers [The Fatherless Generation]

But today, I say the Fatherless Generation reclaims this day, so to speak. Because through the loss we are found. And in the finding there is an appetite fulfilled in Christ's perfection as Father. And my level of belonging to the man that gave birth to me is just not long-lasting enough to anchor my soul anyhow. And ya'll, I need to be anchored!

There is one hope in all of this, one promise that so far exceeds our belonging to the fatherless generation--and that is the royal priesthood, the adoption as sons and daughters, the title of co-hair, the all together beautiful, the bride, the one in whom He is well pleased. The cross should point us heavenbound, as the Perfect Father must remain set apart in our earthly yearnings and belonging unmet.  He is enough.

So let's celebrate that, on this Father's Day. 

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