Father's Day is such a weird day. When I was getting ready for church today, I noticed that one of the DJs on the local Christian station had posted something about the day. It said that this is a day with so many emotions for so many people, so they would be playing songs of encouragement this morning. I thought about it for a while. Father's Day is not greeted with the same excitement as Mother's Day. I was reading an article the other day that talked about how there is not a major uptick in retail sales around Father's Day. In May, there is a huge bump. Restaurants see a boom in attendance. Churches enjoy one of their biggest Sundays. But in June, there is no noticeable difference. The day in and of itself was not even made a holiday for decades after Mother's Day.
I can understand all of this. Father's Day is a hard holiday for me. I loved my dad. But he was a hard man and there are many very negative memories and emotions tied up in thinking about him. It was always a big struggle to find a card on Father's Day that wasn't a lie and wasn't just cold hearted. So I completely get the fact that there are mixed emotions. As a father now, I get to have my kids get excited about getting me stuff (I got Legos and chocolate this year). I explained how this is a tough day for a lot of people. They sweetly told me how I was a great dad. Inside, I just desperately hoped they would feel that way when they were in their 30s.
There is an epidemic of lousy fathering out there. I recently developed a men's conference for Defender Ministries. We put it on at three different churches. At each one, I would ask the men there how many of them would say they had an absentee father or one they wished was absent - someone who was abusive, neglectful, harsh, unloving. Among the three conferences, about forty percent of all the men raised their hands! A lot of the younger guys out there don't know how to be a dad. They haven't seen it modeled and they are just doing their best to figure it all out. There are many older guys who also have had to transition through massive societal changes - including challenges that their parents never had to face and that they were never trained for. Time and again when I teach at events, I have dads come up to me - begging for advice on how to deal with technology, media, easier access to sexually explicit materials. They never expected to have to deal with that. Shoot, I have gone from growing up when the predominant sport for kids was baseball, to seeing football usurp that, to now seeing football being identified as a dangerous choice. Things change so quickly and dads are struggling to keep up.
It is easy to get discouraged by the picture. As a dad, I know that I am worried about my kids. Am I making the right choices? Am I teaching them the right things? Am I passing on my weaknesses and mistakes to them? I don't know too many parents who don't stress about that stuff. I hope that I am doing the best things for them - and I hope God is merciful enough to help them overcome where I fail (which, trust me, is a LOT). I don't want them just to make it through - barely. I want them to develop all the skills and talents that God has blessed them with and then change their world. I want them to make a difference. I want to equip my sons to become the dads they should be. I want my daughter to be confidant and strong enough to choose a man who will be a good father and husband. It is tough.
However, I am encouraged today. Over the last sixteen years, I have had the pleasure to work with some fantastic people in various churches and groups. Most of these have been college students. And there have been a large number of guys who I have worked closely with, watching them grow from annoying freshmen to (somewhat) mature seniors. [Face it, guys. Many of you were very VERY annoying.] Then I have had the great joy of keeping up with them as they got married and had kids. I also have been thrilled to see them become extraordinary fathers and husbands. In fact, many times I feel very inferior as I watch them parenting the children God given them.
They were not my children, but I felt that I had some investment in their lives. I am not arrogant enough to believe I had anything to do with their becoming these wonderful men. That doesn't change how much I have loved watching it happen. This is where my encouragement comes from. Some of these guys had great male role models, but some of them didn't. Some of them fought an uphill battle in the process of becoming a man. I am beyond proud of them.
As I learned from my recent graduation post, making a list is a dangerous thing because you will ALWAYS forget someone. That is not going to stop me, though. This is to the members of Chi Rho from FBC Temple Terrace, the USF BCM, the college department at FBC Oviedo and FBC Orange Park, and the many college speaking engagements I've had. I want to wish those guys a happy Father's Day. You are doing an AMAZING job! It has been a pleasure to be a part of your lives. And I have loved watching you and learning from you. [If I forget your name, that doesn't mean I have forgotten you.]
So to Toney Sauls, Michael Carter, Joel Fauntleroy, Josh Saliba, Wayne Johnson, Tony Whitley, Ryan Biggs, Melvin McColloch, Jason Gray, Jeff Ramer, Benji Stultz, Joe Pardo, John Scanlon, Jon Peters, Patrick Bailey, Mike Cale, Carey Bonham, Jon Wood, Shaun Gyger, Chad Heinrich, Michael Howell, Ryan Bell, and anyone I forgot. Happy Father's Day, guys. You bring me hope for the future.