In an echo of the previous post, Father’s Day is a classic example of putting people into boxes. How society (or rather advertisers and marketeers) portrays the ‘stereotypical man’ as if that is something that all men should aim to be. And I am extraordinarily thankful that I am not a typical man…
Father’s Day is not a traditional part of the church calendar, unlike Mothering Sunday (and of course, that is an example of the same unwelcome pressure being applied to women). Nonetheless it is important to recognise the place occupied in our lives by fathers. As is the case on Mothering Sunday, for some, Father’s Day can be occasion with pleasant events and memories but also a difficult day.
Think for a moment about your own father. He may still be alive or have died some time ago, of course, and you may have a range of feelings about him.
Many people will be having some contact with their father in the course of this day. Others will have become estranged. For some, he was, to use the stereotypical phrase, an ‘absent father’. Or one who was always working or just generally somewhat distant. Maybe the father-figure was a disciplinarian or constantly critical.
On the other hand, maybe your father was a loving man who would do anything for you. Spending time with you, be that from playing with you as a child to comforting and supporting you in your own experiences of being an adult and perhaps a parent too.
There is the pain of fatherhood also, so movingly demonstrated following the recent tragic events in Nottingham. Such pain may also be experienced in other ways, as with any parent, perhaps during events such as pregnancy and miscarriage where the attention is often focussed on the mother. As I know for myself, being a parent can be a painful business but, at least in my case, one where the joys and rewards outweigh the cost.
My own father died fifteen years ago and while I am sure he would have been proud of what has happened to me, I am not sure he would ever have actually said so – at least not to my face, although he would have done so to others (and did!). He was one who loved but found it difficult to express that love.
Your experience of your father may influence your view of God as a father. Perhaps you see God as a disciplinarian or someone who is somewhat distant. Perhaps you know God exists but have found it hard to actually really know him. You may feel God is absent.
Hopefully, though, you may know God as someone who loves you and would do anything for you.
Some prefer to think of God not just as a father but as a parent with all the qualities a mother brings as well. The use of masculine terminology for God is rooted in our Jewish heritage and in some respects, calling God father or mother are simply convenient words to use for the one whose name, in Jewish tradition, could not be spoken.
And it is through Christ, God’s son, that we can come to God in a way that enables us to use such intimate words. To use a pattern that Jesus used – not least in the words of the Lord’s Prayer, itself often called ‘The Our Father’.
Despite, to our modern ears, these gender-loaded, opening words, those very words indicate the full significance of who we are. When we speak to God as our father then we are by implication a child of God.
Each of us is a child of God. A God whose love knows no bounds. A God who will do anything for us. A God who experiences pain too.
Maybe take a few moments this Father’s Day to think about your view of God as a father-figure – and as a parent. What is it that is special about God in your place as a child of God? What do you look for in such a ‘father-figure’?
Whatever words you might use, whatever feelings you may have, God gives you all the good things your own father gave you – and all the things he did not.
‘See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.’ (1 John 3:1)
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