What I wanted to hear (but didn't) was an unabashed, unqualified celebration of fathers and fatherhood. I wanted to hear a full-throated tribute that was unmixed with either an exhortation to be better, a reference to all the dads in the world who have dropped the ball, or an implicit stance that men are genial but foolish beings far below the standard of their much more intelligent wives and children.
I didn't hear that ever--not online, not at church, not anywhere (that's not true--my wife is good at that). And that is kind of sad.
The contemporary way of celebrating Father's day, and this is fairly consistent from the President of the U.S. to columnists to speakers in church, is to start by noting how many fathers out there don't live up to their responsibilities and then to call on everyone to step it up and do better. There is usually a short anecdote thrown in at the end about the speaker/writer's own father or husband, who was a wonderful, loving man.
Here's what I want to point out. All these writers and speakers have a wonderful example to point to, and yet the implication is that he is sort of an exception. But, if all these people had such wonderful dads, that's a lot of exceptions!
I wonder if we could simply take one day of the year and celebrate those fathers that love their kids and wives and do all they can to care for their families, whether they are breadwinners or newly-unemployed stay-at-home dads.
Is that really so much to ask? One day a year when we don't look at deadbeats or abusers and instead look at the good guys and say, "You rock!" Not, "You need to do better," or make nudge-nudge-wink-wink jokes about how goofily sweet and clueless dads are. I think dads deserve better than that.
As a teacher, I see an awful lot of dads. I meet them when they I show them around our school during the admissions process. I meet with them in parent teacher conferences. I see them building scenery or gathering props for the plays. I see them there every night of performances with flowers for their daughters and I see them supporting a son who has chosen to do theatre instead of football. I see them coaching their sons and daughters in every sport you can name. And when I don't see them, it's because they are usually at work trying to pay for their children to go to a private school and have access to piano lessons, karate, horseback riding, and so forth.
These are good, decent men. They aren't perfect but they are stand-up guys who are doing all they can to provide for their families in a world where that is increasingly difficult.
In my capacity at church, I work with 9 congregations, from middle TN up into Kentucky. I have met hundreds of men over the past years. Good, honest, God-fearing men who volunteer thousands of hours in lay ministry. This includes helping scouts, visiting the sick, doing home repairs for widows, donating money, chaperoning the annual camp for young women, humanitarian work, and dozens of other endeavors.
They do this while holding down jobs and/or going to school. They take care of their families and try with everything they have to be good husbands and fathers.
I fear that the rotten view of fathers, fatherhood, and men in general that is pandemic in pop culture has started to seep into our culture at large and that's a shame. There are an awful lot of good, decent, hardworking family men out in the world today. They don't get sit-coms, they don't show up in news reports. They don't have press conferences and the fact that they are so reliable means that they are taken for granted for a society that leans more heavily on them than anyone realizes. If all these good guys were to go away over night, we would notice: as families, as communities, and as a country. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted just how valuable the presence of a father is in the lives of children. It is no small thing to have a father. That makes it no small thing to be a father. And I'd say the same thing to those who fill father-like roles--teachers, coaches, scoutmasters and on and on.
So, Happy Father's day to all you guys who are working and trying and doing all you can. You're not perfect but you don't have to be. Thanks for everything you do and God bless you in your efforts! I feel quite sure that the Father of us all is really happy and grateful for all you do to nurture, protect, teach, guide, provide and all the rest. Whatever your religion or lack thereof, your background, politics, and all the other things we use to divide each other: Happy Father's Day. You rock.