Updated: Jul 6, 2021
You may not be aware of this, but before I or anyone else could become eligible to begin the diocesan School of Ordained Ministry, we had to submit to a full day of psychological testing. We met with a psychiatrist, then took two different tests. One test required us to read a statement and then indicate how true it was for us by choosing a number on a range of 1-5. The second test required us to read a statement and then indicate if it was true or false. No other options. Just true or false.
Some of the questions were complete no-brainers, like: “I think about killing people.”
That was a false for me, by the way.
But there was one statement that totally stumped me. Like any good educator, I skipped it, then came back to it after a few more statements. Then I skipped it again, and came back to it later. And then I skipped it again…. I bet I skipped that statement at least 6 times. So many times, did I skip it until I had answered every other statement on the assessment. Then I sat and pondered it some more.
The statement that caused me so much angst…” My father was a good man.”
You see when I read that statement, my mind immediately went to memories of my dad loading up us oldest kids into the car and taking us to Arthur, Illinois, to see Rockholm Gardens and the Amish community. Immediately followed by the memory of him yelling, cussing, and taking his anger out on us.
There were memories of dad filling a 5-gallon bucket with a cast iron skillet, bacon, eggs, and pancake fixings, leading us to the creek in order to cook us breakfast in the woods.
And memories of him punching and screaming at my sister for drinking out of the milk carton.
Memories of dad patiently teaching me the correct names of tools and how to use them. Memories of him hitting my brothers with a broom handle for some unknown offense.
And so many more…Good memories. Hard memories.
My father was a good man. True or false?
Right now, you are probably thinking, Wow, Tam, you really know how to blow up a Father’s Day celebration. And what does any of this have to do with proclaiming the Good News anyway?
Well, today, we celebrate our earthly fathers, honoring them and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. One aspect of the definition of the word father is “a man who gives care and protection to someone…” In verb or action form, it means “to treat one with the protective care associated with a father.”
I had a difficult relationship with my father. And unfortunately, I am far from the only one. You see, I have had people tell me that Father’s Day is the hardest holiday of all for them, because their earthly father was absent or abusive. Because their earthly father harmed rather than protected. Sometimes a father that disowned them. The only image they have of “father” is vile, hurtful, damaging.
And then, then, we tell them that Almighty God, the one who has all power and might, is their heavenly Father…
Can you see the entanglement? Can you see why one would think or say, “No thank you. I don’t need another father in my life, especially one who is more powerful, more abusing than the one I already have. Just one more who will disown me, cast me to hell.”
That is where all of us, people who are not only believers, but also followers of Christ; this is where you and I and the church, come in.
Today, in both Psalm 107 and the Gospel, Mark 4, we read that God and Jesus stilled the storms of chaos, bringing calm and peace.
You and I, we know that God, often called our Heavenly Father, is the God of Love…not the god of abuse or abandonment. And because we are children of a Loving God, and the wounded are also children of that same Loving God, we must reach out and share that message of Love, of calm and peace, with our brothers and sisters. Especially with those who have not known love from their earthly father.
Look again at the definition above: An earthly father is a man who gives care and protection to someone. It doesn’t say only to his biological daughters and sons. Someone. Anyone.
As I look around this Nave right now, I see many men who meet this definition of “father”. Men who have given care and protection not only to me, but to many others, both younger and older than themselves.
“My father was a good man.”
Today, I can tell you that after much discernment, my answer to that statement is “True.”
Was my father overwhelmed trying to raise and provide for 9 children. Yes. Absolutely.
Did my father suffer from some type of mental health issues? Most likely. Yes.
But I believe my father was a good man, because I believe that he did the best he knew how to do in the time that he was doing it.
Others cannot say the same; therefore, it is up to us to “father” all God’s children, to treat them with protective care, no matter how old or young. It is up to us to follow the example of Jesus, to share the Love and knowledge of God with others in order to care for and protect all our brothers and sisters, but especially those who are weak and those who have been previously injured or abandoned.
For those of you who can say, yes, my father was a good man, I rejoice with you.
For those of you who cannot say the same, please know that I love you, this church family loves you, and more importantly, God loves you!
For those of you sitting here who strive daily to be a good man, I honor you.
For those of you who seek, in Christ’s Love, to give fatherly care and protection to others, biologically connected or not, I celebrate you.
In the name of God, the God of Love and all creation, may we go forth caring for, protecting and bestowing Love upon all God’s children...