A Father’s Day to Die For

Greetings from Maryland! We landed here on the evening of June 16th just in time to visit our new church home and celebrate Father’s Day yesterday. It was my fourth father’s day and first in Maryland. Due to the extreme circumstances of an interstate move, we didn’t have much time to think about, let alone plan a father’s day gathering. My insightful wife asked me several times about plans for celebrating Father’s Day (not just for me, but also for our family’s patriarchs – my dad and hers), but the answers to those questions were lost amidst the thousand small decisions of where to put boxes, how to pack that odd-shaped toy, etc.

I spent Father’s Day at Grace Community Church, meeting new faces and familiar faces, and overwhelmed by the goodness of God to lead me to such a great church. What a privilege and awesome responsibility! Thank the Lord that He who calls qualifies, and He who leads, prepares. After a quick lunch, everyone seemed to take a nap, and I happily watched live soccer (Euro 2012) on live broadcast TV for the first time in years.

Later in the day, my sister called asking about Father’s Day plans and this set off a chain of drama-filled events that eventually led to my dad calling me on the way to his house (45 minutes away) and telling me to turn around and go home because he didn’t want to see any of us. One of my greatest hesitations in moving back home to MD has always been having to learn to balance my own family life with my extended family and then our church community. I dreaded birthdays or holidays and the politics of having to negotiate and navigate such that both sides of the family are appeased. This Father’s Day was our baptism by fire. We left my in-laws feeling somewhat unsatisfied because we had to appease the sudden the plans of my folks to get together for dinner. All along the drive to my folks’ house, I was getting more and more agitated.

“Don’t they know how hard it is to move a family of five?” “Don’t they understand that our window to eat dinner is from 5:30-7:00 before our kids become weapons of mass destruction?” “Why don’t they have any consideration for us?” “How can my dad be mad at us?” Then the final internal grievance: “We’re spending all this time trying to appease both dads. What about me? Am I not a father too? How come no one is celebrating/appreciating me?”

And that was the most telling question. What about my rights? What about my glory? What about my being made much of? As I was driving, I had a deep wrestling match with God as I realize that most of my complaining and grumbling was because I wasn’t getting what I was due. I was a hard-working father who was getting the shaft because of the older dads in our family. The Lord reminded me of Phil 2:5-11…though Jesus was in very nature God and had every right to use that to his advantage, he didn’t. Instead he gave it up. Or Luke 9:23…if anyone will follow Jesus, he must deny himself…or I have been crucified with Christ…or whoever seeks to save his life will lose it…or he must increase. I must decrease! In that 30 minutes, while talking with my wife, I decided to die, and it was the best death I’ve ever had. I decided to lay down my rights to a father’s day celebration and rather to enjoy and appreciate my dad and dad-in-law. Instead of growing bitter and resentful because no one cared about appreciating me. I let it go.

The evening wasn’t altogether smooth, but it went over so much better because I didn’t come in with a chip on my shoulder, but rather a burden of love. I recognized that Jesus had the greatest claim to the greatest celebration ever, but instead chose a shameful cross so that I could gain from his reward. It wasn’t the most intentional Father’s Day, but it was a meaningful one nonetheless. What a glorious Gospel.

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