I love Father’s Day. But not just because of the usual, traditional stuff. Gathering together with family and friends and reminiscing about good times, old times, and praying for better times to come is always uplifting. And it goes without saying that we welcome any excuse to offer up some burnt sacrifices on the charcoal altar, but that’s not why I love Father’s Day. There’s another dimension that gets to my heart in a different way. I didn’t grow to love the special day until much later, and oddly enough, it has its roots in what was for most of my life, a deep and painful hole in my heart.
A Term in Need of a Definition ~
In the world I grew up in, “father” was a term that had no personal meaning for me. There was no man in my life that held that title. My mom worked two jobs in the little town where I was born, so my grandparents stepped in and filled the role of parents as best they could for my brother and me. My grandpa was a wonderful guy, but the Great Depression had left its mark on him. Work was everything for him. Work was what enabled you to survive, so it took precedence over everything. His expression of love was providing for us and preparing us to deal with life’s challenges. Other than frustration, emotional expressions were rare to non-existent.
We did love one another, I’m sure, but there were no verbal or obvious physical expressions of it. But my objective is not to sound like just another whiner playing his victim fiddle. The fatherless homes in this country are a social epidemic. Absentee fathers have enabled more havoc on our land than any virus ever unleashed, and I am intensely aware that millions of kids this Father’s Day have a much worse situation to deal with than I ever did. My heart grieves for them and for those who have abusive fathers or father figures. My prayers go out to God on their behalf.
A Place for Personal Involvement ~
The point I want to make is that God can do for them the same thing He did for me. He can use the aching emptiness and anger emanating from that yawning hole in their hearts to draw them to Him. Many of them may have grown up like me, not knowing that Jesus Christ died to offer them a way to become a part of a different kind of family, and that’s where we come in. The Holy Spirit almost always chooses to employ a human instrument in the process of expanding His family, and that’s the point of this simple Father’s Day admonition. A brief exchange between Jesus and one of His disciples sets the stage:
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:8–9 NKJV)
We can certainly understand Philip’s question. He’d been hearing all these wonderful things about a Heavenly Father and had just been told that he was going to have his own special place in His Father’s house. It would be reasonable to want a personal introduction to see what this incredible Father was like. Jesus’ response suggests a challenge all of us need to take to heart not just on Father’s Day, but every day. Jesus was an ongoing audible and visual demonstration of what the Father is like, and that has implications for us. One of His last revelations to His followers extends to us as well:
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20:21 NKJV)
Active Engagement Expected ~
Could that mean that we are expected to demonstrate to the world what God the Father is really like? In a word — absolutely. We’re surrounded by a sinfully-obsessed, spiritually-vacuous, morally-depraved, and emotionally-confused culture that may not be saying it directly, but they’re pleading for someone to show [them] the Father. They may have heard sermons about Him and stories about things He’s done, but they long for something more visible and tangible, so to bridge that gap, God decided to send us.
Most of us might immediately want to declare that we’re not worthy to undertake such a task, and not only that, we’re also incapable. But God responded to that argument through Peter and what He said is staggering. Peter declared:
… His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature…. (2 Peter 1:3–4 NKJV)
It’s hard to wrap our heads around what he just said. We almost hesitate to contemplate what this really means. Our pathetic excuses for sinful lapses, and our selfish retreating into the things our fallen nature cherishes, begin to grip us with conviction. The Father not only adopted us into His forever family, but made us partakers of [His] divine nature. He enabled us to do things, see things, feel things, and live in ways that are just like Him!
Empowered and Equipped ~
After years of genealogical investigation and a few divine interventions, my wife and I managed to fill in lots of blanks regarding my biological father. One of the things I learned in that journey is that I apparently have some characteristics that are like him. I find that astounding. Even though I never saw his face, heard his voice, or observed his behavior, I’m apparently disposed to do some things like he did. Regarding that phenomenon, people blithely say, “Oh, that’s just DNA.” But if God can design that kind of thing using biochemistry alone, just imagine what He can accomplish by injecting a part of His very nature into you and me!
It was amazing enough for me to hear that Jesus could grant forgiveness for all my wretched sins, but then I learned there was more. He could give me a second “birth” and a whole new beginning. He could make me part of a family with a Father better than any I could have imagined. The Father in my new family knows every dream I ever dreamed, every hope I ever had, every enemy I ever feared, and every time I tried and failed. He also knows every selfish, rebellious thought I ever had and all those times when I denied Him and went my own way. But the greatest part of it was the promise that nothing that life could ever throw at me would be able to separate me from His love.
An Example that Worked ~
I learned a lot of that from a guy who befriended me years ago and who was different. He talked differently, not weird, just without profanity and vulgarity. He didn’t go to the same places or engage in the same sinful activities that my other friends did. Those differences got my attention, and when they were reinforced with the promises in the Word of God, life-changing faith was born. The picture Paul paints with his inspired words wraps up our Father’s Day admonition with transformational potential:
… Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22b–24 NKJV)
Maybe there’s someone close by whose broken life and aching heart are begging for someone to show them the Father — and maybe God wants that someone to be you or me. Perhaps our Father’s Day celebrations can help to remind us that God sees the potential and purpose of our lives on deeper levels than we normally think.
So, may tomorrow’s family gatherings be devoted to celebrating the One who can take the wounds left in the wake of every failed father . . . and heal them, forever.
In Honor of ‘Him’, Have a Wonderful Father’s Day!
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “The Father not only adopted us into His forever family, but made us partakers of [His] divine nature! He enabled us to do things, see things, feel things, and live in ways that are just like Him!” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “I’m apparently disposed to do some things like my biological father. People blithely say, “That’s just DNA.” If God can design that kind of thing using just biochemistry, imagine what He can do by injecting part of His very nature into us.”@GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “It was amazing enough for me to hear that Jesus could grant forgiveness for all my wretched sins, but then I learned there was more. He could give me a second “birth” and a whole new beginning.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Jesus could make me part of a family with a Father better than any I could have imagined. The Father in my new family knows every dream I ever dreamed, every hope I ever had, every enemy I ever feared, and every time I tried and failed.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Jesus knows every selfish, rebellious thought I ever had and all those times when I denied Him and went my own way. But the greatest part of it was the promise that nothing that life could ever throw at me would separate me from His love.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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In many ways like you, although I remember a pat on the head as a young child from someone who looked eerily like me as an adult, I grew up without a true father. It was when God showed me Himself through my adopted dad (much like your grandfather) that I came to understand what godly love looks like. Dad became “God with skin on” to me; not because he told me he loved me (I was in my 30s before I heard those words from him), but because of how he demonstrated his love for God and family. I saw him and mom sacrifice to ensure us children were given the opportunity to make the best for ourselves. I watched him do without to help a stranger or customer who needed whatever it was he could offer. Because of his willingness to give to others rather than keep for himself, my dad ascended to heaven’s glory as one of the richest folks in glory. He may not have had much here on earth, but oh the riches he stored up in eternity through his investments in others. So loved your post today; and your reminder that each one of us can be a “father to the fatherliess” by showing our Father’s love and influence in our lives. Let us invest His love into others.
Sorry I’m late getting back to you, but want to reiterate that your story is such an inspiration to me, J.D. And that’s not only because of the things you endured in those tough early days, but because of the fruit it has borne in your life, and continues to bear. Our loving Heavenly Father knows what He needs to invest in.us to develop us into the vessels He designed us to be, and He transmits just those special qualities of His own divine nature that He knows it will take to get it done. God bless you for faithfully living out the love and grace He infused into your life in spite of the hard times. I join your prayer that He will use our lives in more ways than we know to offer hope and inspire faith in those who don’t yet know that there’s forever family with a Father who originated the term and embodies every good thing about it is waiting to make them a part of it. I rejoice with you that your dad inherited a lifetime of riches in glory, but I think one of his greatest treasures is seeing the dividends multiply in you. Happy Father’s Day, my friend.
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