Happy Father’s Day again to the folk who celebrate Father’s Day for various reasons! As I mentioned today in the sermon during worship, Father’s Day has been kind of hard since my dad passed. But the weird thing is that when I was growing up, I never thought my dad was that great anyway. I mean he was very rarely around, and whenever he was around he would be telling me to stop doing whatever I was doing with the assumption that it was probably me misbehaving. I was blamed for darn near everything. And there are times when I could have sworn that my dad actually forgot my name and just called me by the Chinese nickname he gave me, which basically meant “the youngest child”.
And as I continued to age and gained my independence, I continued to think that my dad wasn’t that great of a dad. Like he never really reached out to me, he didn’t help me with anything that I needed, he barely offered to pay for me whenever we went out. Not that he has to do these things, but I don’t know, it’d be nice if he did.
Then now that I’m a dad myself, I totally get it. I see that my dad didn’t mean to do or not do these things, it was just the cards that were dealt to him. I get why my dad was so tired all the time and wanted just a bit of peace and quiet in his own home. I understand the frustration in trying to reel in some overly energetic kids that are hopped up on sugar.
So maybe it wasn’t that my dad was a bad dad as much as I was a bad son. And maybe I wasn’t such a bad son as much as the relationship I had with my dad just wasn’t great and we were both just doing our best. And maybe our relationship wasn’t just great but it was… actually yeah it was because our relationship just wasn’t great.
That is a tough pill to swallow, but I get that’s how it just was. Through it all I know my dad still loved me, as I know that in my own weird way I love him. We just had some learning about each other to do.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father…” (Matthew 10:34-35a)
I’m sure glad my dad didn’t know the bible enough to know this passage, because knowing him he would have milked it for all its worth. Actually, now that I think about it, I may have drawn on it from time to time when things between him and me just weren’t going smoothly.
But upon closer inspection of this passage in conjunction with the others, I wonder if Jesus really meant what we think he meant at face value. I wonder if Jesus was actually talking about tearing families apart and driving wedges between related people. I wonder if Jesus was even thinking about father/son relationships like the one my dad and I had.
Or, was he talking about the relationship we have with ourselves? With those parts of us that maybe just need to be cut out of our lives? With those hard-to-swallow pills that remind us that maybe we aren’t the greatest people the world has ever known (because believe me, I think that a lot)?
I think we all have these sort of internal struggles, whether we bring them to light or not. We often fight within ourselves to do what is probably right over what is just more convenient. We struggle internally with who we are and where we’re going and what we need to do.
And in that, Jesus gives us peace. Peace in knowing that it’s ok to have these struggles. Peace in believing that we aren’t the only ones who might stumble and fall. Peace in seeing that even when we can be really unsure about so many things, we continue to be loved by a God who will never leave us or let us go.
Of course we continue to strive to be better people. We try to do right by our family and our community. We try to embody the teachings of Jesus in our lives. But try as we may, we will mess up somewhere. And even in that there is grace, forgiveness, and peace in our eternal welcome into God’s kingdom and family.
Thanks be to God! Have a great week, everyone!