(Not) Just Another Day | Sojourners

(Not) Just Another Day

Father and son. Photo courtesy Dubova/shutterstock.com

For as long as I can remember, Father’s Day has been a challenge for me.  You see, like many other children I know, I have deep painful scars when it comes to the topic of fatherhood.  My dad really hurt me the day he left — which, quite frankly, was one of the lesser hurts he caused to my mom, in my opinion.  Physical abuse, infidelity, gambling away our meals: the list goes on and on. I put this out there not because these things in my life are unresolved or unforgiven, but to open up a conversation.

Unfortunately my story is way too common these days, and I am a bit tired of its demon-like possession of black children and families.

I first dealt with this problem through denial.  I just ignored the fact that my dad hurt me, and that his other family lived a few blocks away. Then there was the rebellion.  I remember on Father’s Day buying my mom Father’s Day cards to show my distain for my dad, and how much I appreciated my mom and the craziness she had to endure. I look back at that now and think I just needed a dad. It didn’t need to be my biological one, but someone to help me face the denial and deal with the rebellion welling up in my soul.

You see, fatherhood is a beautiful thing and although it’s not talked about very much, there are some wonderful black dads around.  Fatherhood is tough in the face of poverty and injustice.  There are no excuses for men not being fathers to their children — none whatsoever. There just needs to be an understanding that not having a job or having a prison record affects how you face your children.  Not excuses, but hurdles nonetheless, and hurdles that don’t seem to end.

Theologically speaking (not to cause debate), on Father’s day when God was connected to my dad as the ultimate Father, it didn’t make God too appealing to me. God as mother was much more inviting in those painful times. 

I think I have come to embrace God as Father as I have learned what that really means, as I have grown into being a dad, and as God has taught me Dad lessons. God is a good Father, and I understand that now because he taught me how to be a father when I had no human understanding of what that meant.  This in no way takes away from God as a mother; the balance of the two is important in our lives. He was truly a Father to this fatherless young man, and She is truly a mother to the motherless as well.

I am a dad five times over these days, and a dad to neighbors where their biological one has been absent. Don’t let this Father’s Day go by as just another day. Let it sink in as you embrace your dad this weekend or as you put yourself in the life of someone who needs a dad to embrace.  Let us celebrate or walk through the joy and pain together, as a community that embraces “Dad”.


Leroy Barber is President of Mission Yearco-pastor of Community Life Church, and part of the Emerging Voices Project.

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