A Father to the Fatherless
Father's Day has always been a bittersweet holiday for me. For most of my life, my father was absent, having abandoned our family when I was in elementary school. Father's Day as a child was a painful reminder of what was missing in my life. But now, as a father of two wonderful elementary school-aged children, I enjoy the sweetness of Father's Day. I enjoy the hushed voices of my kids trying to hide their Father's Day present from me. I enjoy the sweetness of knowing that I'm not missing out on the best years of my kids' lives. But I must admit that in my most vulnerable moments, I allow my earthly fears and anxieties get the best of me and I wonder, given my history, am I going to be a good enough father?
One of my favorite passages in scripture is Matthew 1. I love the genealogy of Jesus because it reminds me that the Messiah himself comes from what could be considered an embarrassing lineage -- questionable parentage with a history of violence, infidelity, and just downright sinfulness. Yet, at the end of this embarrassing lineage is my Savior, who in his birth, life, death, and resurrection is able to transform shame, guilt, and embarrassment into honor, forgiveness, and joy.
Father's Day reminds me that my Heavenly Father is a source of grace, faithfulness, and covenant loyalty. And that I'm also called as his son to be a source of grace and faithfulness. My father passed away more than six years ago. He suffered a stroke and lingered in a hospice for about a month. He was unable to talk during his last month of life, but during the last days of his life there was genuine reconciliation and restoration between my father and me. Extending forgiveness to an absentee father allows me to enter into my own role as a father with greater freedom and grace.
Father's Day also reminds me of the very serious calling to live into fatherhood as exemplified in the scriptures. I'm indebted to many "fathers" in my life. Many have served as father figures to me in many different ways. So now, I strive to be a good father to my own kids and a father figure to many of the fatherless in my community. I'm challenged more and more each day by what that actually means.
There are many questions about the appropriate ways that churches can and should support the state. There are many arguments for and against the support of the government's agenda (whether coming from the left or from the right) by the church. But when the vision of the government and the vision of scripture align, then we can wholeheartedly agree to support the good efforts of the government. One of the key efforts of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives is to support responsible fatherhood. That sounds like some thing I can get behind, no matter what my political leanings.
Soong-Chan Rah is the author of The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity and is Milton B. Engebretson Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism. Read more from him at www.profrah.com.