I suppose Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day, is meant to be a unilateral holiday. It’s typically a one-way expression of appreciation from children to their fathers. Yet on my second Father’s Day, I find that it’s also a personal celebration of the high privilege and unique joy of fatherhood. It’s a day to reflect on the overwhelming happiness of being a father.
I am a father. This means many things.
The love that I have for my son is literally inexpressible. I don’t know of any way to fully communicate the depth of love that I have for him. Were my life to depend on it, I could not entirely express the way I feel about my son. It runs too deep. This is natural, and it is supernatural. I am a father.
One of the most gut-wrenching thoughts I have is the thought of dying before my son has grown up. I know that God is his ultimate Father and I know that his mother is wonderfully capable. But this does not make me satisfied with the notion of leaving him before he reaches maturity. I do not believe that God has intended us to be happy with the idea of our children burying us. Yes, He is good, and He works all things according to the counsel of His perfect will. But His perfect design, which drove the creation of the original world that He called “good,” says that fathers are to raise their sons. I want to raise my son, if God would be so gracious. I am a father.
Watching my son grow is a distressing and joyful experience. Distressing because I love him so much exactly how he is and I don’t want him to grow up, and joyful because as my wife faithfully reminds me, every stage has the seeds of joy in it. This is simply the nature of the relationship. I don’t want him to grow up because I am a father, and I rejoice to see him grow because I am a father.
I have never been imitated so much in my entire life. He wants to do everything just like me. When I wear shorts, he wants to wear shorts. When I eat quickly, he competes with me. He says he will work where I work, and he carries a wallet because I do. When I give thanks for dinner, he watches me. When I start a project, he helps me. When I play sports, he runs along the sideline. I have not yet presented him with a reasoned argument to imitate me. He just does. I am a father.
In so many ways I do not want him to be like me, but in a very deep and fundamental sense, I do. I want him to love the God that I love. I want him to care about what I care about. I want him to live and die for the things I want to live and die for. I want him to follow in my footsteps. What father doesn’t? Sons are meant to bear the image of their fathers, in so many ways. I want my son to bear mine, as far as it is the Lord’s. I am a father.
I love children, and I want to help them, especially those who are fatherless, broken, and oppressed. I am moved by Jesus’ heart for children. But I do not love other children like I love my son. Some may see this as a deficiency. I see it as design. The love of a father for his child, like the love of a husband for his wife, simply cannot be mass-produced. My love for my son is unique. I am a father.
I care about the church and the world and the heritage that I leave behind. Some talk, presumably with wisdom, about not caring about the condition of the planet or the state of the society or the quality of the community. For these it is a badge of honor — the pilgrim mindset misapplied — to disregard the world’s trajectories. But not fathers. Fathers do not say, “I’ll be gone by then, so it doesn’t matter.” I care about the world in which my son will live, the church to which he will belong, and the community in which he will participate. I care deeply. I am a father.
There is an inborn, protective intensity to a father’s love that is no less beautiful for its ferocity. Any father whose heart is not backwards and twisted would offer his life as a shield for his child. This is why David the son of Jesse sings, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation” (Psalm 68:5). In the divine character that we are to image there is an indivisible union of fatherhood and protection. To be a father is to be a fortress. I am a protector. I am a father.
This is why seeing Calvary through the lens of fatherhood is astonishing. I see the gospel now with a clarity that was not there before. And it is a clarity that cannot really be seen; only felt. This is why I chose to preach on Romans 8:32 last year. It makes so much more sense now. I am a father.
Yet these precious riches of my fatherly blessings pale in comparison to what I have been given as a son, on earth and in heaven. My fatherhood is a temporary shadow of the eternal reality, a faint echo of the divine proclamation, a blurred copy of the heavenly original. The inheritance I will leave is laughable compared to the heavenly riches I have been promised in Christ. The love, care, and protection I offer my son is simply a small silhouette created by the brilliant light of the Father’s faultless care. Like every father before me, with the exception of one, I am a son before I am a father. I am loved, welcomed, named, nurtured, taught, protected, enjoyed, forgiven, corrected, trained, fed, clothed, and secure. I have a Father.