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Glimpses of Grace—Father’s Day: A Few Thoughts

My father circa 1950

Father’s Day. As I reflect upon what the day means to me I also am reminded of a teenage girl who was in a senior high Sunday School class that I taught in 1976.  I had not yet gone to seminary. I no longer remember the girl’s name. Her face is now clouded in the passage of time. But her story remains hauntingly etched upon my mind.

We were studying the Lord’s Prayer. She became unusually quiet as we talked about “Our Father, who are in heaven…” After class she haltingly approached me. I learned her story of abuse and neglect. The first years of her young life was a series of abusive live-in-proxy-fathers and foster homes. By accident or Providence she made her way to the Sunday School class I taught. As I learned her story of never experiencing a positive caring male figure my heart ached for her. There are too many children like her.

Every now and then I think of that now faceless child of God. And I realize that she is not “faceless” at all. She wears a millionIn a few weeks we will mark Father’s Day. As I reflect upon what the day means to me I also am reminded of a teenage girl who was in a senior high Sunday School class that I taught in 1976.  I had not yet gone to seminary. I no longer remember the girl’s name. Her face is now shrouded in the passage of time. But her story remains hauntingly etched upon my mind.

We were studying the Lord’s Prayer. She became unusually quiet as we talked about “Our Father, who are in heaven…” After class she haltingly approached me. I learned her story of abuse and neglect. She walked to Sunday School from a nearby group home. The first years of her young life was a series of abusive live-in-proxy-fathers and foster homes. By accident or Providence (the latter being more in line with our theology) she made her way to the Sunday School class that I taught. As I learned her story of never experiencing a positive caring male figure my heartache was tempered by her pain and confusion.

Every now and then I think of that now faceless child of God. And I know that she is not “faceless” at all. She wears a million faces and goes by a thousand different names. She is the child without a father, the child whose father was abusive or who walked away from responsibility.

The late pediatrician and lecturer T. Berry Brazelton once told Bill Moyers that an absent or uninvolved father makes life very difficult for a child. He has had fatherless 3 and 4 year old children climb upon his lap, fawn and feel his face “as if they just couldn’t get enough of what a man is like.” He quoted studies indicating that if a father is absent in the first year of a child’s life by the time that child turns 7 his or her IQ will be lower, less successful in school and have a poorer sense of humor.

Years ago my daughters gave me a little wooden plaque that read, “Any man can be a father; it takes someone special to be a daddy.”  Father’s Day is not about biology. It is about something far greater. It is about love, showing up and caring. Father’s Day isn’t just for “fathers”. It is about any man who takes the time to invest in others.

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