It's Father's Day on Sunday, and I would encourage you to honour your Dad - but maybe not in the way you would have expected...
Let me explain where I'm coming from.
I've lost count of how many times I've heard the story about some guy who's on his deathbed, and pronounces his regret that if only he hadn't spent so much time at work, and had instead done far more worthwhile things, like (insert here whatever cause it is the speaker wants you to support).
It's not inspiring, it's a guilt trip!
And then there's the one about the prison padre who couldn't meet the inmates' demand for Mother's Day cards, but later in the year couldn't get rid of a single Father's Day card.
Well, let me let you into a little secret - All the Dad's I know (and that's more than just a few) do their best, they love their kids and invariably have the best interests of their family at heart. And for all the stories you read about "bad" Dads, like the 17 year-old who broke his own baby's legs, there are a thousand more top blokes who on a daily basis sacrifice their own time and money, and so often forsake their own dreams, for the benefit of their kids.
And sure, they make mistakes, and yes, life as a kid can suck... "It's not fair," I would whine at my Dad. "Nor's a dark horse," was his standard reply....
But my Dad left me a heritage, and he had fun with us. We played cards, and we went to the park. We messed with the English language (knives became kiniffees and gnomes became gunommees). He took us to shows, we went to the beach, and we played games together. I still play the same games with my kids, and I can't wait to have grandkids so I can play them again!
The longer I'm a Dad, the more I understand mine. It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I started to learn some of the details about Dad's past and appreciate how it would have affected him - that's just one the reasons I tell my kids my stories. It's my choice what events I focus on, and whether I judge him or respect him. If I was real honest I'd tell you I'm a lousy son, and not much of a brother.
One of the saddest things about Father's Day is the number of kids who don't live with both parents. I know some kids who never see their Dad, and others who spend three days with one parent then four days with the other. Call me an idealist, but no wonder they're mixed up.
And speaking from experience, I don't think kids will ever understand why their parents split up. But I do know as an adult that there's no benefit in judging either party.
There are so many kids in our community who don't have a resident Dad for whatever reason, whether it's due to a broken marriage, or he works out of town or he's in prison or he died. There are so many women in our midst who bring up their kids alone - and it's not always a choice.
I would encourage you to get involved, even if it's just for this one day. Paul teaches that "Pure and undefiled religion ... is ... to visit orphans and widows in their trouble..."
My own life has been marked by men other than my Dad who gave me work, fed me, mentored me, forgave me, entertained me, taught me and, most importantly, gave me opportunities to succeed or fail, to try new things, to stretch my horizons. They believed in me.
That's not to diminish the efforts of my own Dad. He did all the above, plus he worked two, sometimes three jobs and he cared for one wife and five kids. He took us on annual holidays and he taught me practical skills. He took me to church and he introduced me to Jesus. He coached my soccer team and he fixed my motorbike when I crashed it. He picked me up when I ran out of petrol and and and and and...
Paul also writes that we should "honour our father and mother", which many take to mean that we should show them respect. However, because of past bad experiences such respect can be difficult, and can sometimes come grudgingly, if at all...
It makes sense to me - and it could be easier to achieve - if, as according to Shane Willard, we also apply Paul's instruction by acting in such a way as to make our parents proud of us - to bring them honour...
And that choice Dads, is solely up to us.