celebrating fathering spirits

Every year at Father’s Day, I find myself frustrated with Hallmark. Why, you ask?

Not because they have clearly manufactured this holiday, like so many others, as an opportunity to give gifts and cards.

Not because they start plastering the stores with loud signs trumpeting its arrival the instant Mother’s Day ends.

But because apparently neither of the most important fathers in my life – my own and my children’s – fit Hallmark’s stereotype of what fathers are like. And thus it becomes nearly impossible to find a meaningful (and even funny?) card for men whose personalities and interests do not fall into the following categories:

  • burping
  • drinking beer
  • playing golf
  • hogging the remote control
  • farting
  • ogling women
  • mowing the lawn

I find myself growing depressed as I search the card racks. Is this the image we’ve created of fathering in our country today? Is this what we want to celebrate each June? And we wonder at the state of our marriages, our families?

So today I refuse to concede to stereotypes. There is too much good fathering around these days to give in to neckties or grill sets. 

While we may sometimes overlook the Abba-ness of God, since God-as-father dominated the imagery and language of Christianity for centuries, I believe it’s important to celebrate today what it means that God fathers us.

Beyond biology, many of today’s men are redefining what it means to father, to be intimately involved in the raising of their children, to break the boundaries between work and home that defined generations before them. This is tough work, uncharted territory, and we – as women, as mothers; as church, as community – need to support them better in their vocations. They are helping all of us to understand God’s Fathering Spirit.

Tirade over. Off soapbox; on to good things:

First, a good, honest story about the tough days of parenting, from a fathering perspective: A Father’s Bedtime Story

Second, a lovely bit of wisdom from Scripture that I stumbled upon last week. (I make no apologies for loving the childbirth reference as well):

With all your heart honor your father,

and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother.

Remember that it was of your parents that you were born;

how can you repay what they have given to you?

~ Sirach 7:27-28

And finally, part of a prayer from John O’Donohue’s To Bless The Space Between Us. “For a New Father” speaks to all fathers, young and old. The language hints at biological fatherhood, but I think adopted and foster fathers can find themselves in the words of calling and commitment here, too:

As the shimmer of dawn transforms the night
Into a blush of color futured with delight,
The eyes of your new child awaken in you
A brightness that surprises your life…

Now as you behold your infant, you know
That this child has come from you and to you;
You feel the full force of a father’s desire to protect and shelter…

May your heart rest in the grace of the gift
And you sense how you have been called
Inside the dream of this new destiny.
May you trust in the unseen providence
That has chosen you all to be a family.
May you stand sure on your ground
And know that every grace you need
Will unfold before you
Like all the mornings of your life.

May you celebrate today all the fathering spirits in your life.

2 thoughts on “celebrating fathering spirits

  1. I TOTALLY AGREE!! I absolutely DESPISE shopping for Father’s Day cards, as none of them ever seem appropriate for my art-loving, intellectual, spiritual, progressive father who happens not to watch sports or drink beer (except O’douls) or golf or have a lawn to mow. I’ve often thought someone should launch a counter-cultural card company that offers cards with messages that celebrate dad’s breaking the mold. So preach it sista!

  2. So glad I am not alone in this, Liz!! If only someecards made printed versions that were somewhat tamer (and more parental-friendly), I would be all over their stuff. Maybe someone will take us up and get inspired – till then I will continue to feel like a social outcast on Hallmark holidays. But in good company.

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