Father's Day often feels to me like the day after you get back from vacation or what it was like when I returned from my honeymoon. Mother's Day is more like that moment you get in the car ready to take off for a grand trek across the country to "touch buffaloes and see monuments"--the moment that drips with anticipation. To me, Father's Day feels more like the reality that hits you after a great experience and Mother's Day represents that anticipation of entering into something exciting.
Some of that is due to the timing of the holiday. Mother's Day occurs just before schools release students for the great summer vacation. Fishing season has just opened up in the northern states and families are making plans for an upcoming season of fun. And, we celebrate the love of Mom. But, Father's Day occurs right after school is out. Most vacations may not have been taken yet but the plans have been made. Reality has hit.Why is it Easier to Honor Mom than Dad?
Why do the two days to celebrate those who God commanded we not only celebrate but honor seem so different? Well, maybe the timing of them is part of it but I think it's more stark, more sad. For way too many of us, fathers are not to be celebrated but forgotten and ignored. And, that's in response to fathers who have forgotten and ignored their families. A quid pro quo I guess you could say. If it were up to us in our humanness we would probably take fathers day off the calendar. Some of you who are reading this are almost pounding the table in agreement, as if to say "yes, he gets me." Others are too numb on this issue to do anything but read on. Thankfully, some of you are saying, "My father is/was a great man and I can't wait to celebrate his life." But God did not give us the option to ignore or forget our dads. No, God didn't stutter when He gave Moses those 10 COMMANDMENTS.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12, ESV)
Most of us can follow this for moms but not for dads. If we think that we can escape the truth and only celebrate the one holiday we want and get rid of the other, think again. These were not the 10 SUGGESTIONS. And, just when we thought we might wiggle out of having to obey because of the New Covenant usurping the Old Covenant, Jesus says, "I didn't come to abolish the law but to fulfill it". In other words, those commandments still stand. They represent a pattern of living that we are to keep so that our lives will be abundant in this land we've been given.Honor is Not Easy. But it’s Necessary
I'm like many of you. I had a mostly absent dad. And, I've found myself getting more angry with him as I've gotten older and had a better understanding of a father's role and realized how much he didn't "measure up" to what I needed. I didn't know then what I didn't know. But, my dad was there sometimes. He picked me up on Sunday, took me on summer vacations and wanted to be a part of my life. I needed more but didn't know it. When I got old enough to know it, there wasn't anything he could do about it. What I realized is that God commanded me to honor my father not for his benefit but for mine. Much of my dads fathering was learned from his dad. And, that wasn't much. So, as we often say or heard said, he did the best he could with what he had at the time. And, he didn't know Christ. So, all he had was the best the world could offer. Not much to work with. But he cared for me and has always told me he loves me and that he's proud of me. It's up to me if I want to stay bitter for seeing him through the lens of what he didn't give me in wisdom and preparation for being a man or to honor him for the man he is and who he tried to be by at least giving me what he had to give. It's why I wrote and read a tribute to my father last year. I needed to do it whether my dad "deserved" it or not. God's command doesn't give me an option. Nor does it give you one either.
Some of you have horrendous stories of abuse, never having met or known your dad and other horrific childhood experiences with your dad. Some have great stories about dads who got it and knew how important their role of being a father was and lived it out well. And others have father stories like mine. We love our dads for who they were or are but wish they had been so much more. Yet, the command from God is not conditional. It doesn't say, "Honor your father if he was there, loved you, cared for you, taught you, and is worth honoring". Nope. It's an unconditional honor. It's like the forgiveness Jesus gave us at the cross. It wasn't a conditional "I'll go to the cross to take the place of the best of the worst of you sinners but for those who really screwed up, well...I guess this doesn't apply to you". It's an all or nothing proposition. It doesn't release a father from his standing before God to make an account for his doings. If he is a Christ follower than he stands free like everyone else that claims that the death, resurrection and life of Jesus covered our penalty for our sin. If he isn't he will pay for that penalty himself. It's the same for all of us. Father's included.Honor Your Dad This Year – Not Because He Deserves it But Because We Need To
I don't know what feelings Father's Day may bring you. It may be deep pain or bitterness. It might be ambivalence or, hopefully, it is a deep sense of real honor because your dad was a man who left a legacy, not a legend. He invested in you. If you are in the last category, Father's Day and honoring your father is relatively easy and joyful. For the rest it's either insignificant or too hard to do...by ourselves. No matter who your dad is, he wasn't perfect nor was he excluded from God's command to us to honor him. It's time that we treated Father's Day like Mother's Day, not because of the emotions they elicit but because by honoring our parents we are honoring our Heavenly Father. If you can't do it for either parent, do it for Him. Honoring them is not about them. It's about freeing us and Honoring God. So, this Father's Day, honor your father anyway.
Jeff Abramovitz has been married to his wife, Sue, for 30 years. They have three grown children. Jeff is a social media speaker and strategist, faith-based film reviewer and promoter and has worked as a finance/accounting executive as well as spending a number of years on staff with FamilyLife, helping and strengthening families and marriages. Jeff has written a blog for dads at DadPad.org and had a podcast as well and has worked with hundreds of men’s ministries throughout the years.