Let’s face it, for so many, Father’s Day can be a painful reminder of the worst moments of our lives. For some it is a reminder of what they’ve lost. For others it can be a reminder of what they never had. While still more have only been given abuse and violence from their fathers. Father remains as a loaded, painful word but one that God chooses to call himself. How do we reconcile that? The authors of the Biblical psalms processed heavy, complicated emotions through their poetry. What follows is an attempt to process Father’s Day through the form of a modern day psalm of lament.
Expect a parallel and thematic structure of a psalm without the poetic verse structure of a PhD in Literature. It begins with the question of how a God that is supposed to be all good and all powerful can ask us to call him a word that to so many means loss, evil, and pain. It ends with a reminder that the only thing that defeats death is life and even if our fathers never gave us anything good we have the opportunity to bring goodness to the world. Even in the darkest family situations, hope can survive in the next generation. We have been adopted as children of God. Given absolute love and compassion by the creator of all things. In light of the gospel, my hope is that the connotation of that word can be transformed.
Oh Lord, how can I possibly call you father
when all that word does is remind me of loss?
You are the Father of Fathers but
when I hear that word I think of the day mine left.
How can I feel close to you remembering what I’ve lost
feeling again and again that day when he died?
It seemed on that day as if separation was king
dealing decrees of disease and death into my life.
My father was a good, good man
so how could you let him die?
You claim to be a good, good God
but now that word, “father”, means death.
Still others have lost more than me
never having a moment with their fathers worth grieving.
I can’t imagine what that word brings to mind
for those who never had someone to fill it’s image.
Even worse I can’t imagine what that word feels like
for those who had a father that only made them feel pain.
Our hearts ache
for those for whom that word means verbal, violent, violating abuse.
This cannot be the way things are supposed to be.
If there is a good connotation of that word
what is it?
Lord you are patient and kind and loving,
is that what “father” is?
You are gentle and gracious and powerful,
is that what my father left behind?
You, oh Lord, are the father of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
and, at times, they were not faithful.
Your people, Lord, again and again and again
create space for sin to remain in the world.
Yet the hope of Abraham was Isaac
and the hope of Isaac was Jacob.
The death and decay of sin that defines our fathers’ day
gives way to new hope always present in new generations.
Our father’s cycles and chains
can always be broken.
While death has struck it’s only blow
I still live and will live.
Not only that but those words that “father” should mean
love, patience, kindness still live.
It is because of who my father was that in me
gentleness, graciousness, and power still live.
I live therefore my father lives
because I am my father’s greatest hope.
In the same way our Heavenly Father is proved good
because he gave the world his Son.
Death, decay, violence, and violation
do not get to have the last word.
We were born of our fathers
to ensure that what struck them sees no victory.
Death will always win
if we do not give life.
Hope will always end with us
unless we pass it on.
Even if to me that word is marked by death
it is also marked by love.
While for so many of us that word carries a sting
by its nature it also carries new life.
Lord I can say you are good
because death is not the end.
Lord I can call you father
because I am your child.