Letters from the Heart - Father's Day

Today, the eve of Father’s Day weekend, I am taking a few moments to reflect on what it means to be a father. I am a father, have been since 1983, and I am hoping to be a grandfather sometime in the future.One of our team members at work just celebrated the birth of his first child a few weeks ago, a son he named Conner. Some of us went to the hospital the next day to congratulate the new, proud parents and I even got to hold the little guy for a while. So small, so delicate, so fragile, yet so perfect. What a rush of emotions went through my mind as I held that little boy. It took me back many years to the moment I held my son in my arms for the very first time. He was just a few seconds old, and try as I may right now, I simply can’t begin to put into words what that experience felt like for me…to become a father. I have been reading a book that has recently come out, written by Dennis Rainey, president of the non-profit ministry FamilyLife, called “Stepping Up – A Call to Courageous Manhood”. In the book he calls and encourages today’s men to re-engage with their children, spouses and families, stepping into acts of courage, something that seems to have been waning over time. He walks the reader through the stages of manhood from a little boy to a patriarch, giving examples of what courage in a father looks like today. I found myself being affirmed and encouraged by this book, wanting to do more in the area of demonstrating courage as a father. Raising a son and two daughters with my wife has often times called me to be courageous. Teaching my young son that it can be a noble thing to drop your fists and walk away from a fight, while at different times when things matters most like keeping a marriage intact, we must hang in there, fighting with all of our heart. With my daughters, courage meant showing them that a father’s love sometimes means invading their personal lives to rescue them from harmful relationships, (much to their chagrin), but it has also meant enduring their giggles and laughter at my allowing them to paint my fingernails and toenails from time to time.   At the end of his book, Dennis Rainey reflects that being courageous as a father will mean offering up one’s life as a sacrifice for his family. He quotes Elizabeth Elliott in the last chapter writing, “A man’s willingness to offer up his life for his wife or for anyone else who happens to need him is not the end of everything. It is only the end of himself. He, who is fully a man, has relinquished his right to himself.” A close friend of mine lost his dad suddenly, last weekend. The funeral is tomorrow. His dad was in his 80’s. I can recall countless discussions and the laughter that my friend and I shared about the relationship he had with his dad. As an observer, I’d say the relationship between that father and son was a very, very good one. When I called him this week to check in, my friend said, “Dave, I had no unfinished business with my dad.” That struck me deeply, and I believe him. His dad finished well; he raised four great sons and a daughter. I can only hope that when the time comes for me to pass that my kids and their friends can say the same thing about me…we have no unfinished business with our dad. Take a moment to honor your dad this weekend, in thought or deed. Thank him for the courage that he demonstrated in your life, whether large or small, and if you have unfinished business with him, muster the courage to finish it, before it is too late. Have a blessed Father’s Day weekend.

Sarah Gillihan