On Fatherhood: Our Father and the Fatherless
Today is a day for which I have very mixed feelings. On the one hand, I have been blessed to have a wonderful, loving and supporting father. My brother, a new father himself, is clearly devoted to my nephew in every way. Even my father-in-law is an exemplary Dad who has always supported his kids (and me) in every way (though as an Australian, he won’t be celebrating Father’s Day for several months yet). In no way do I want to take away from the honor these men and others deserve.
However, I have to admit that this day leaves me unsettled. Of course, part of that is selfish. I so desperately want to be a father myself, yet face hurdle after hurdle in seeing that happen. I see people in our community who manage to have children so easily, all too often unexpected and even unwanted. Most of all I remember the loss of our first child during pregnancy, imagining what she or he might look like today. I grieve that, because they did not survive to birth that we are often expected to act as though they never were- nameless, forgotten. Never forgotten by Kim & I.
Beyond my own personal reasons, I also see how many people around me either do not have their fathers in their lives, whether through death, abandonment or estrangement. For a church where the median age in the mid-20’s, the number of people whose fathers are no longer part of their lives is heart breaking. And then there are those whose father are part of their lives, but are relationships defined by disappointment, abuse, rejection and disinterest. For all of these, this day can be salt in an ever open wound.
Part of me- the cynical, wounded part- wants to reject this day altogether, but I cannot. For all the brokenness that I see related to fathers, I am also convinced that this very brokenness cuts so deep precisely because of the importance of fatherhood. While not to be confused with some kind of statement on the gender identity of God, that He so significantly identifies as Father also reinforces the importance of fatherhood to our own identity and wholeness.
It is with this significance in mind that we must understand our call, as the Church, to be fathers to the fatherless. This is not a poetic way of saying that we need to fund orphanages and combat divorce trends. Both of these things are good, but when God calls us to be a father to the fatherless, He calls us to follow His example of genuine relationship and sacrificial love. He calls us to an active love that blasts through the boundaries of cultural propriety and familial loyalties- not the detriment or neglect of our own families, but through the conviction that God is calling us to a devotion to Him and others that must rival all others.
Our world is filled with the fatherless- and in more than just the literal meaning. This is call to extend the Father’s love to others is not some project or program that interested Christian might get involved with, but rather it is a defining characteristic of what it means to follow Jesus Christ. And it is a commitment that should not be driven by guilt (though conviction for our failing to do so is surely important), but driven by the same thing that drove Christ to pay the highest price for us:
Greetings from the inner city neighbourhood of Winnipeg’s West End! My wife (Kim) & I have been living and serving here as inner city Christian workers for nearly 10 years. With many Ethiopian neighbours, it was especially exciting for us to begin the adoption process from Ethiopia in late 2007. Since then, the process has been long and challenging, as many complications (common to adoption in Canada) have slowed the process down. However, we are hopeful as we await a referral which should be coming in the near future. You can read more about our ministry on my blog.