WASHINGTON, June 18, 2016 – Deciding on an appropriate way to pay tribute on Father’s Day is often challenging. Our minds wander to ties, shorts, gift cards or lawn equipment or dinner coupons, which somehow seem to fall short of demonstrating heartfelt emotion.
While there may not be one correct or “best” way to celebrate Father’s Day, some ideas are more likely to create lasting memories than others.
When I was young I remember having a conversation with my dad who passed away nearly five decades ago. He mentioned to my siblings and me something which stayed with me all the years of my youth and into my adulthood.
When we asked what he wanted for Father’s Day, my father turned the question around. He asked us what kind of gift did we feel a father would want to give to his children. We sat on the living room couch somewhat puzzled, because we were thinking he would answer with something like a trip to a local restaurant or maybe a great used but cool pool stick case.
He smiled and shook us off some of our answers which in hindsight were probably more for our edification than his. My dad then paused and brought out his Bible card. He asked each of us to imagine what type of gift that our heavenly father would want as a present if we were thinking about giving him a gift on Father’s Day. He then asked us what type of gift should a father give his children.
We looked at each other as we sat on the couch sweating mental bullets. He kept smiling, and my brothers, both future fathers as I would become as well, kept searching the ceiling for an answer as if it would fall out of it. My dad, who was a former boxer, stood up and extended his arms outward and then asked each one of us to feel his flexed muscles in each massive arm.
We jumped up from the couch and complied. My dad then said, “When I boxed do you think I was a strong person?’ We quickly nodded. He then continued, “I pull steel in a steel mill every day. Does that make me a strong person?” We looked at each other and then nodded again. He then sat down and looked at each one of us. He said, “Physical strength is good to have in the boxing ring and on my job, but that is not the strength that God looks at for me or for each one of you to only have. The real gift and real strength is inside of my heart and in each of yours.”
He picked up the huge family bible which sat on our living room table and opened up to one of his teachable gifts as he always referred to when speaking to us about a Biblical point he wanted to make. He slowly read:
“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. “You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth. Deuteronomy 11:18-21
He didn’t close the Bible. He looked at each one of us and said, “The Father’s Day gifts you thought of were really nice and I certainly would like any of them, even the gallon of pecan ice cream and mashed up strawberry flavored cones.” He smiled and continued, “but for God and for me, the gift of being a responsible father lasts longer and raising biblically responsible children is the gift that you can take with you to school, to the park, to church or to your friend’s homes in the neighborhood.”
He then spoke of his own father, a minister in the south who had been preaching the word of God since his graduation from college in 1902. He spoke of how his dad Rev. Jonathan Fobbs also told his sons about the celebration of fatherhood being a gift that is passes on to each generation. He often called it the cord of life that Biblically bound one generation to the next.
To be honest, I cannot say that I was totally pleased that we could not convince our father that a gift of pecan ice cream or a visit to the zoo was a better Father’s Day gift for him. But I eventually knew that he was building up a lifetime of Biblical gifts that we could share each day with him and with our own children somewhere in the distant future. Of course, being children, he had to repeat that lesson a few times.
Although he was called home to be with our Heavenly Father in 1969, his lessons stuck. So this Fathers’ Day I believe that fathers would do well to give a similar Biblical gift of life long celebration to their children, because it is the gift that will keep giving.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. 4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6: 1 – 4
Happy Father’s Day